Dr Zoe reveals which supplements to take
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Those identified as being at risk of iron deficiency anaemia include toddlers, girls and women of reproductive age, and some adult groups aged over 65 years. The NHS explains iron deficiency anaemia is caused by lack of iron, often because of blood loss or pregnancy. It’s treated with iron tablets and by eating iron-rich foods. The Mayo Clinic says unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch, are signs of iron deficiency anaemia.
The organisation says iron deficiency anaemia can be so mild that it goes unnoticed, but as the body becomes more deficient in iron and anaemia worsens, the signs and symptoms intensify.
It says iron deficiency anaemia signs and symptoms may include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
- Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
- Brittle nails
- Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anaemia.
The NHS says a GP will usually order a full blood count (FBC) test. This will find out if the number of red blood cells you have (your red blood cell count) is normal.
It says you do not need to do anything to prepare for this test.
“Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common type of anaemia. There are other types, like vitamin B12 and folate anaemia, that the blood test will also check for,” adds the NHS.
The health body says: “If the blood test shows your red blood cell count is low, iron tablets will be recommended to replace the iron that’s missing from your body.”
The Cleveland Clinic says: “Anaemia occurs when there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body’s organs.
“As a result, it’s common to feel cold and symptoms of tiredness or weakness.”
The Cleveland Clinic says if you have anaemia that is not treated, it could lead to an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), an enlarged heart or heart failure.
Overloading the body with iron can be dangerous because excess iron accumulation can damage your liver and cause other complications.
The Johns Hopkins University says iron-deficiency anaemia may be caused by the following:
- Diets low in iron
- Body changes
- Gastrointestinal tract abnormalities
- Blood loss.
The body can’t make iron, so you need to get it from food. If you do not eat as much iron as you use each day, you develop iron deficiency.
The Mayo Clinic says foods rich in iron include:
- Red meat, pork and poultry
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
- Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots
- Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas
It says: “Your body absorbs more iron from meat than it does from other sources. If you choose to not eat meat, you may need to increase your intake of iron-rich, plant-based foods to absorb the same amount of iron as does someone who eats meat.”
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