Anemia is a medical condition in which the red blood cell (RBC) count or Hemoglobin (Hb) is less than normal. Normal Hemoglobin level is about 13g/100 ml in men and 12g/100 ml in women. Normal RBC count in men is 5-6 million/microliter blood while in women it is 4-5 million/microliter. Let’s check out the causes and symptoms of Anemia and role of yoga in Anemia, in this post.
Basically, anemia may result from a decreased production of RBCs or Hb or an increase in loss or destruction of RBCs or a decreased amount of Hb on the RBCs.
In adults, red blood cells are made in the bone marrow. The normal lifespan of a red blood cell is typically around 120 days. Hemoglobin is a red pigment protein attached to the red cells, that contains iron and gives a red color to the red blood cells and to blood.
RBCs, which float in blood, have the important job of carrying oxygen. Hemoglobin is the key chemical compound that combines with oxygen from the lungs and carries it to all tissues throughout the body. Oxygen is essential for all cells in the body to produce energy.
Transport of carbon dioxide, the waste product of this energy production process, back to the lungs, is also carried out partly by hemoglobin. The carbon dioxide bound to hemoglobin is unloaded in the lungs in exchange for oxygen.
- Dietary deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid.
- Bone marrow failure
- Kidney disease
- Genetic cause
1) Dietary Deficiencies
Iron is required for the production and function of hemoglobin. In the absence of adequate iron, hemoglobin production slows down. Iron-Deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. It usually happens due to poor absorption of iron from food or blood loss. Pregnancy and childbirth consume a great deal of iron and thus can result in pregnancy-related anemia. Young women are likely to have low-grade iron deficiency anemia due to loss of blood each month through normal menstruation.
Vitamin B12 and folate (B9), are important for red blood cell synthesis, a process known as ‘erythropoiesis’. Their deficiency results in pernicious anemia also known as megaloblastic anemia. This may be caused by inadequate absorption of vitamin B12 from the gut, green, leaf vegetables, and also long-term heavy alcohol use.
The body is able to store vitamin B12 for a long time, so inadequate dietary intake must persist for years before a true deficiency of vitamin B12 is reached. Therefore, the symptoms of pernicious anemia usually do not appear for years.
Hemorrhage refers to a significant, rapid loss of blood. Hemorrhage may be ‘external’ and visible on the outside of the body or ‘internal’, where there is no sign of bleeding outside the body. Bleeding from a cut on the face is an external hemorrhage. Bleeding from an ulcer in the stomach or intestine are examples of internal hemorrhage.
Hemorrhagic anemia is due to blood loss that is greater than the rate at which RBCs can be replaced. Blood loss may be due to injury, ulcers and other internal blood loss, heavy menstruation, etc.
Chronic oozing of blood inside the body can cause anemia. Chronic or long-term bleeding is often undetected for a long time.
Stress, smoking, unhealthy eating habits and medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs aspirin, ibuprofen, etc can induce stomach ulcers.
A red blood cell lives in circulation for 120 days, after which it breaks down and is removed by the spleen, but they are constantly replaced.
Abnormal excessive red blood cell destruction is called hemolysis. Hemolytic anemia occurs when RBCs are fast broken down in the bloodstream or in the spleen.
Hemolytic anemia may be due to mechanical causes (leaky heart valves or aneurysms), infections, autoimmune disorders, or congenital abnormalities in the red blood cell. Inherited abnormalities may affect the hemoglobin or the blood cell structure and function. Examples of inherited hemolytic anemias include some types of thalassemia and sickle cell anemia.
4) Bone marrow failure
Bone marrow failure affects the production of red blood cells. This may be due to cancer such as leukemia, radiation, chemotherapy or other toxic drugs, immune disease and heredity.
5) Kidney Disease
Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). EPO prompts the bone marrow to make red blood cells.
When kidneys are diseased or damaged, they do not make enough EPO. As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells, causing anemia.
6) Genetic causes
Can Anemia be hereditary? Yes, anemia may be genetically inherited.
Depending on the degree of the genetic abnormality, hereditary anemias may cause mild, moderate, or severe anemia. In fact, some may be too severe to cause the death of the fetus (unborn infant) in the uterus. On the other hand, some of these anemias are so mild that they are usually not noticeable and are incidentally revealed only during a routine blood work.
Symptoms of Anemia
- Some patients with anemia show no symptoms.
- Other with anemia may feel tired, fatigue easily, appear pale, develop palpitations (fast heart beat), experience shortness of breath
- It is worth noting that if anemia is longstanding (chronic anemia), the body may adjust to low oxygen levels and the individual may not feel different unless the anemia becomes severe. On the other hand, if the anemia occurs rapidly (acute anemia), the patient may experience significant symptoms relatively quickly.
Anemia can be detected by a simple blood test called a complete blood cell count (CBC); which gives an idea about the RBC count and Hb level.
Interpretation of CBC may lead to clues to suggest the type of anemia.
However, treatment of anemia varies greatly and very much depends on the particular cause.
Does yoga have any role in ameliorating anemia?
Yoga integrates physical exercises with breathing techniques and hence is very helpful in bringing in the fresh oxygen-rich air into the body and distributing it to all the systems by increasing blood circulation through them.
According to various yoga experts, anemic patients should start their yoga sessions with Pranayama followed by proper asanas under the guidance of good yoga instructors.
Ayurveda, the medicinal branch of yoga offers many treatments for anemia.
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