Anemia has been plaguing the Indian population at incredibly high rates for decades, and while the government has been trying to implement programs to lower the rate of this deficiency among Indian people, there have been ongoing calls for a more effective effort to be made. According to the World Health Organization, 63.7% of Indian women and 22.3% of Indian men were anemic in 1958. In 2016 these numbers had dropped to 53.1% for women and had risen to 22.7% for men. So while it could be argued that the public health effort has been helpful at least for women, it is also very plausible that there are outside factors affecting these numbers, especially because we see a slight increase in men suffering from anemia. In fact, while government programs do provide iron supplement pills for children and pregnant women (low iron is one of the main causes of anemia) very few people are actually receiving these supplements, and of the people who do receive them, even fewer are taking them regularly due to lack of understanding about what they are.1
So, the question remains now... how can you tell if you are anemic? And if you are, how can you treat it? How much cause for concern is there really? First of all, let’s talk about what anemia actually is. There are different levels of anemia deficiency, so someone could have mild anemia and never even realize it. In more severe cases, anemia can seriously interfere with one’s day-to-day activities and even be life threatening. When someone is anemic, it means that they carry smaller amounts of something called haemoglobin in their blood. Haemoglobin helps carry oxygen through your veins to reach your organs and the rest of your body.2
Some common symptoms of anemia are fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and numbness in extremities. If you are concerned that you may have anemia, reach out to your doctor. They can ask you to get a blood test which will reveal your red blood count cell and tell you your haemoglobin levels- this will be under the blood test section called CBC (Complete Blood Count). Since one of the main causes of anemia is low iron levels, a good way to avoid this deficiency is through a healthy diet including lots of leafy dark green vegetables like spinach, soybeans and peanuts, and if you’re non-veg red lean meats and organ meats. Citrus fruits and other foods with lots of Vitamin C are also great for keeping anemia at bay. If you are already eating lots of these foods on a regular basis and are concerned you may be anemic, reach out to your doctor. While iron deficiency is the most common cause, anemia can also be genetic or may be caused by parasites. 3
Remember, in most cases, anemia is mild. If are anemic and your symptoms are mild, likely all you will need to do is adjust your diet or add a supplement. Whether or not you have anemia, it is important to be aware of the symptoms so that if you or a loved one begin to experience them you will know what to do for relief. If you have a teenage daughter or know a woman who is pregnant, be sure that you speak to them about anemia. These groups are at high risk: menstruating girls because of the blood loss and pregnant women because they need to support a whole extra little person with nutrient-rich blood.
HEEALS is trying to raise awareness about anemia because it is such a big issue in India. If you would like to volunteer with HEEALS or learn more about what we do, reach out to us at : firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t forget to check out our social media!
wash & intern coordinator
wash & intern coordinator
Picture : HEEALS