Wake Up Tired Blood
you’re not tired-you’re exhausted. You dragged yourself through the day, doing the bare minimum. And you barely got dinner on the table before collapsing in front of the television like a giant lady slug. It could be that you’re coming down with a bug that’s going around. Or maybe you just have too much to do. Or maybe you have anemia.
Diagnosing anemia is a tough call, explains Dr Orpah Platt, a hematologist (a doctor who specializes in blood disorders). Some women have no symptoms at all. Others, however, may feel completely drained and have trouble just making it to the end of each day.
Symptoms or no symptoms, women who have anemia tend to have plain and simple iron-deficiency anemia. The body needs iron (and plenty of it) to manufacture red blood cells. These red blood cells contain hemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood. With too little iron, you have less hemoglobin, less oxygen and less energy. In other words, you have tired blood.
“Far and away, the predominant cause of iron-deficiency anemia in women is menstrual blood loss,” says Dr Sally S Harris. *That’s why anemia is more common in pre-menopausal women-post-menopausal women no longer menstruate. And women with heavy menstrual flow are more prone to anemia, because they lose more blood than women with lighter flow.”
Pregnancy and breastfeeding also drain iron stores, contributing to anemia in women. Low dietary intake (or poor iron absorption) also plays a part, says Dr Harris.
Besides overall fatigue, other symptoms of anemia include shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness and fainting, plus apathy (lack of interest), poor resistance to colds or other infections and not surprising-feeling tired after exercise.
RESTORE YOUR ZIP
If a blood test shows that you have mild anemia, Dr Harris says that your doctor might recommend over-the-counter supplements that provide up to 18 milligrams of iron a day, the Recommended Daily
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
Consult a physician if you have any of these symptoms.
• Extreme fatigue
• Shortness of breath
If you are treated for iron-deficiency anemia and don’t feel better after a month. tell your doctor. You may need another blood test. If the results are still below acceptable levels, your doc tor might refer you to a hematologist (a doctor who specializes in blood disorders) to find out what’s causing the problem.
Allowance for pre-menopausal women. If your anemia is more severe, your doctor will likely prescribe high-dose iron supplements of up to 180 milligrams a day, adds Dr Harris. In any case, women doctors advise men and women alike against taking iron supplements without a doctor’s supervision, because too much iron can be toxic. To complement your physician’s therapy, here’s what women doe tors say that you can do on your own to help put the brakes on anemia.
Stock up on iron-rich foods.
“The best sources of iron are red meats-especially organ meats, such as liver–because they contain home iron, the form most completely absorbed by the body,” says Dr Harris. “But organ meats are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease. So instead, look for lean cuts of steak and extra-lean minced beef.” * The best diet for women who are being treated for anemia is to eat a hamburger or steak two to three times per week,” says Dr Platt.
Help yourself to some wheat germ.
“Women with anemia also tend to run low on folate, B vitamin-and folate deficiency contributes to anemia,” says Dr Platt. “I recommend eating plenty of foods high in folate.” You can get your Recommended Daily Allowance of folate 400 micrograms-by eating a bowl of highly fortified grain cereal for breakfast. Other good food sources of folate (as well as non-home iron) include lentils, red beans and spinach. Look for uncoated tablets.
“Ask your pharmacist if the iron supplements that you’re taking are enteric-coated,” says Dr Dorothea Sucker-Franklin. “If they are, try switching to a brand that is not enteric coated. Uncoated tablets are more completely and quickly absorbed by the body. “Uncoated tablets may, however, upset your stomach, says Dr Zucker Franklin. If so, take the tablet after a meal. Take it right. “You can get the most out of your iron supplement by taking it every day with foods or beverages rich in vitamin C,” says Dr Platt. “Studies have shown that foods high in vitamin C enhance iron absorption.” Take your supplement with a glass of orange juice or cranberry juice.
Other good food sources of vitamin C include guava (a tropical fruit), red peppers, papaya and strawberries. Stick with the programmed. “Iron-deficiency anemia is not corrected overnight,” notes Dr Sucker-Franklin. “Women need to know that they should take their supplements for at least six months—a year is best. You may feel better in a few weeks, because your blood level of iron is restored. However, it takes longer to restore your iron stores in your bone marrow.”