Are you tired all the time, feel weak or dizzy or suffer from low body temperature: you may suffer from Iron-Deficiency Anemia? A lack of iron in your system can cause turmoil with the body’s daily functions. We all want those healthy red blood cells to keep us strong, but sometimes the cells get out of whack and don’t work the way they should to get that much-needed oxygen flowing through the body.
Iron is also important to help maintain healthy cells, skin, hair and nails. Iron deficiency is quite common, particularly in women who have a diet low in iron. The National Institute of Health recommend that men get 8 milligrams (mg) of iron per day and women get 18 mg per day before age 50 and 8 mg after that age.
Who is at risk?
IDA affects more women than men with the greatest risk for:
- Women who menstruate, particularly if their periods are heavy. Up to 5% of women of childbearing age develop IDA due to heavy bleeding during their cycle.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or those who have recently given birth. IDA affects one in six pregnant women. More iron is needed during pregnancy to support an unborn baby’s development.
- People who have undergone major surgery or physical trauma.
- People with digestive issues including celiac disease, Crohn’s and those whose diets do not include iron-rich foods.
- Those who give blood often may have an increased risk since blood donation can delete iron stores.
Infants, small children and teens are also at high risk for IDA according to the government office on women’s health website.
What are the symptoms of IDA?
The symptoms may be mild at first and develop over time but as the condition worsens, you may notice the following changes:
- Low body temperature
- Pale or yellow skin
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Brittle nails
- Shortness of breath or chest pain, especially with activity
- Unusual cravings for ice, very cold drinks or non-food items like dirt or paper
How to help prevent IDA
The government office of Women’s Health recommends the following to help with prevention of Iron Deficiency Anemia:
- Treat the cause of blood loss by talking with your doctor about heavy menstrual periods, any digestive problems like blood in stools or frequent diarrhea.
- Eat iron-rich foods including lean meat, chicken, dark leafy veggies and beans. If you don’t eat meat you may to increase taking iron-rich, plant-based foods.
- Eat and drink foods to help your body absorb iron including orange juice, strawberries, broccoli or other fruits and veggies with Vitamin C.
- Avoid coffee or tea with your meals as it is makes it harder to absorb iron.
- To prevent IDA in babies, feed your baby breast milk or iron-fortified formula for the first year according to the Mayo Clinic’s Health Information.
When should you talk to your doctor?
Talk with your physician about any signs, symptoms and any risk factors, such as heavy bleeding that might suggest Iron Deficiency Anemia. Upon completion of a physical exam, your doctor may recommend further testing including blood work to rule out IDA or any other underlying condition.
The information on this site is intended to raise awareness and understanding of specific health issues. It should not be used for diagnosis or a substitute for health care by your physician.