The human body may look simple from the outside, but on the inside—underneath all those clothes, that makeup, and that skin, lies a complex network of veins and arteries; these vessels are delicate and intricate, and they are responsible for keeping all of your organs functioning and keeping you alive.
The Importance of Your Blood Vessels and Cells
The key to the vessels is blood. It is blood that runs through them, busy as a bee, transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide where needed. Blood is made up of three different kinds of cells—white blood cells, platelets and red blood cells. Red blood cells are like the worker ants of the blood cells. These red disks carry oxygen around your vessels. They need free range to get to your heart, lungs, brain and everywhere else that oxygen is needed. They also take carbon dioxide—something you produce but do not need—out of your body.
White blood cells are your infection fighters. Think of them like white knights ready to defend you from virus invaders. Platelets help your blood flow to slow if you get cut. Without all three of these cells in the right numbers, your body could be weakened. Without enough white blood cells you would be ineffective at fighting infection, without enough platelets you could easily bleed to death, and without red blood cells your brain and heart could be working on reduce power because they aren’t getting enough oxygen.
What is Anemia?
Anemia is generally caused by a reduced level of red blood cells, although all your blood cells may suffer from reduced numbers if you are anemic. The major problem is that either your body isn’t producing enough red blood cells or that the ones your body does produce die off at a fast pace.
If you are anemic, you will find that you are often tired or weak feeling. You may be dizzy, have some breathing problems, suffer chest pain and headaches. These symptoms come on because your heart, in trying to make up for the reduced number of blood cells carrying oxygen around your body, tried to pump harder and create more oxygen distribution.
Anemia is fairly easy to treat. Many people who suffer from a low grade iron deficiency can simply change their diet and incorporate more iron rich foods. The best source of iron out there is liver. Many people, unfortunately, do not enjoy liver. Those people can turn to other meats like pork and poultry or dark leafy greens like spinach as good sources. There are still other foods that are high in iron including peas, eggs, prunes and peanuts. If none of these is acceptable, people with low iron can also look to iron enriched foods. Certain flours, cereals, breads and other enriched pre-packaged foods will contain iron that can get your red blood cell count closer to your goal.
Generally an iron supplement is all the anemic patient needs to get their red blood cell count back on track. The patient can start with an over the counter iron supplement but if symptoms of anemia don’t improve, you should see your primary care physician. He or she can prescribe a stronger version of the iron supplement. In this visit, the physician may also find that B12 shots are necessary, although this is only in extreme cases.
It is important to also include more vitamin C in your diet no matter what form of iron you decide to take in. Vitamin C helps your system absorb the iron—without it, you won’t get as much benefit out of your iron rich foods or supplements.