Anemia, also known as anaemia, occurs when your blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells or if your red blood cells don’t have enough hemoglobin. Because a side effect of anemia is low circulation of oxygen, anemia symptoms usually include muscle weakness, ongoing fatigue or lethargy, brain fog, and sometimes mood changes. Severe anemia or unabated anemia can also sometimes cause complications, including damage to your heart, brain and other organs, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). (1) Although it’s rare, anemia that remains untreated can even become deadly.
Considering the seriousness of anemia and how common it is among certain age groups — especially women during reproductive years or adults with existing health conditions who are over 65 — it’s imperative that you learn how to recognize anemia symptoms in yourself or your loved ones. Below you’ll learn about the most common signs of anemia, as well as the best ways to treat these symptoms and reduce anemia risk factors, such as iron deficiency or eating a highly processed diet.
Anemia is “the condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or of hemoglobin in the blood.” Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives your blood its red color. It helps cells bring oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. If you have anemia, your body simply doesn’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood, leaving you tired and weak. (2) Red blood cells contain hemoglobin. They are also important for immunity, including fighting infections, as well as clotting blood and preventing too much bleeding.
Anemia is closely related to iron deficiency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S. Iron helps produce hemoglobin, and therefore the CDC estimates that almost 10 percent of women are iron-deficient. This is alarming considering the essential roles that iron plays, including facilitating with oxygen distribution. (3) Your body needs iron to perform many functions throughout every single day. But it’s common for many people to live with low iron levels due to factors like blood loss (such as from menstruation), a poor diet or an inability to absorb enough iron from food sources.