Anemia is a common condition that often can be overlooked. The symptoms may be vague: fatigue and lightheadedness or even looking extremely pale all caused by too few red blood cells in the body.
Consumer Reports says anemia can be dangerous if left untreated.
The most common cause of anemia is a low blood iron level due to loss of blood. Studies show that as many as 1 in 7 premenopausal women have heavy or irregular periods and that can lead to anemia.
Another cause of iron deficiency anemia can be gastrointestinal bleeding, which can be triggered by something as simple as taking too much aspirin or ibuprofen over time. Anemia caused by internal bleeding can also alert your doctor to check for other underlying conditions like hemorrhoids or more serious ones like ulcers, polyps and even cancer.
Treatment of the anemia will depend on how severe it is. If the iron deficiency is very mild, iron rich foods can sometimes do the trick. Spinach, kale, legumes like lentils and beans as well as beef, chicken and fish can boost the iron in your blood. But sometimes stronger measures are needed.
Iron supplements taken orally can also be helpful but only if recommended by your doctor. If the anemia is severe a blood transfusion may be necessary.
Consumer Reports says definitely do not take iron supplements on your own. There can be harmful side effects and iron can also interfere with other medications you may already be taking. And if your doctor prescribes an iron supplement, be sure to keep the bottle well out of reach of children.
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