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The persistently high level of anemia among Indian women continues to be a major health concern, according to National Family Health Survey (2015-2016) 53% of all women have anemia. Anaemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiency disorders affecting the pregnant women and the second most common cause of maternal deaths in India (contributes to 80% maternal mortality in South East Asia).
What is anemia?
Anemia is a condition in which the body lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout the body. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin which enables them to carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body and to carry carbon dioxide from other parts of the body to be exhaled via the lungs. According to WHO anaemia among women is defined as a haemoglobin concentration of <120g/L for non-pregnant women aged 15 years and above and a concentration of <110 g/L for pregnant women. To produce enough haemoglobin and red blood cells, our body needs iron, vitamin B12, vitamin B9 (folate), and other nutrients from the foods we consume. Iron is a key component of haemoglobin, and iron deficiency is estimated to be responsible for half of all anaemia globally.
Identifying the symptoms
It's alarming that many women for a long time do not realise that they are at the risk or that the disorder is already in progress. It's easy to ignore or confuse because the most common symptom of anaemia is fatigue. Other common symptoms include Hair loss, headaches, breathlessness, pale skin, brittle nails, irregular heartbeat, and coldness in hands and feet.
Do you know there are 400 different types of anaemia? It can be temporary or long term and can range from mild to severe. In India, Iron and vitamin deficiency anaemia are more prevalent. Iron deficiency anaemia is caused by low level of iron in the body. A diet lacking in vitamin B12 and B9 hampers theproduction of healthy red blood cells and causes vitamin deficiency anaemia.
These factors place you at increasedrisk of anaemia:
_ Not including enough iron rich foodsin diet.
_ Women of child-bearing age are atgreater risk due to blood loss duringmenstruation.
_ Pregnant women need extra iron tonourish the growing body.
_ Chronic conditions such as cancer,kidney failure, diabetes can lead to ashortage of red blood cells.
_ Excessive consumption of coffee, teaand alcohol interferes with theabsorption of iron.
According to ICMR 2010, theRecommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)of iron for a sedentary woman is21mg/day, for pregnant women is35mg/day and it is 21mg/ day for alactating woman. This daily requirementcan be achieved through both intake ofiron rich foods and supplements.Iron rich foods like broccoli, dates,iron-fortified cereals, dark green leafyvegetables, and meats etc. helpsincrease haemoglobin level. Folate andVitamin B12 rich foods like green peas,peanuts, chickpeas, dairy products, for,soy products and meat help increasehealthy red blood cells. Vitamin C richfoods like citrus fruits and juices,peppers, tomatoes, melons andstrawberries help increase ironabsorption.