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10 common beliefs about Anaemia

Posted by Xanit Internacional Xanit Internacional | Posted in Various | Posted on 22-05-2017


Throughout the years, a few old wives’ tales have developed around anaemia, but not everything you might have heard is true. Today with the help of Dr. Gutiérrez de Guzmán, Head of the Haematology Department at Vithas Xanit we are going to investigate to see whether there is any truth to them or not.

  1. Anaemia is a disease:

False. Anaemia is not be a disease in itself, but a symptom which can be the result of many causes. Anaemia describes a low level of Haemoglobin in the blood. Haemoglobin is a protein in the red cells which is responsible for transporting oxygen to the cells throughout the body.

  1. If I eat foods which are high in iron, this will prevent anaemia:

False. Iron deficiency anaemia is the most frequent anaemia, but there are many more anaemias where not only is iron not needed, but taking it can even be dangerous. Iron should never be taken without a prior diagnosis.

  1. Obese people do not develop anaemia:

False. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be obese, or even very obese and be anaemic. What we eat is much more important than how much we eat. The fact that a person who is overweight can be anaemic is a frequent surprise for families.

  1. There are foods which are especially high in Iron:

True. There are many foods which are particularly high in iron. These are for example:

  • Seafood: clams, cockles, and in smaller quantity muscles and sardines.
  • Animal produce: liver, red meat and game birds such as partridge and quail.
  • Vegetarian produce: Broad beans, spinach, chard, lentils and other pulses.
  • Nuts: Pistachio nuts.
  1. Vegetarian diets cause some types of anaemia:

True. Nevertheless, stopping consumption of animal products does not mean iron deficiency anaemia necessarily develops more easily. As stated previously there are many vegetables with a high iron content. As far as fruit is concerned, peach, figs and strawberries also contain iron.

Vegetarians are however at a higher risk of suffering from deficiency anaemias caused by a lack of vitamins such as folic acid or vitamin B12.

  1. Geographical situation influences haemoglobin levels:

True. The climate does not affect the development of anaemia, but the height above sea level where you live does affect your level of haemoglobin, although not whether you are anaemic or not.

At sea level the oxygen concentration in the air is greater, therefore less haemoglobin is required for its transport than for example, high mountainous regions like Sierra Nevada. It is for this reason that elite athletes go to train at high altitude for a period of time each year. Whilst at altitude in the mountains their level of haemoglobin increases so that when they compete at sea level they have greater oxygen capacity and can therefore perform better.

  1. Menstruation can cause anaemia:

True. Heavy periods can cause anaemia. Women of child bearing age are one group who are most susceptible to developing anaemia. Every month menstruation causes an extra loss of iron in women of childbearing age. A large amount of iron is also transferred to the newborn during pregnancy and breast feeding (however little the mother has, nature takes care of the baby first). This can sometimes cause iron deficiency in the mother.

  1. Stress can cause the appearance of anaemia:

False. Stress has no direct relation to the development of anaemia, but it is related to the increase in other haematological diseases such as lymphoma.

  1. Pale skin is a symptom of anaemia:

False.  It can be one of the signs of anaemia and can be a consequence of decreased concentration of haemoglobin in the blood, however it can also be caused by lack of sun exposure or be the result of genetics. Through a simple blood test, known as “full blood count,” we can check the number and size of the red blood cells as well as the haemoglobin level.

  1. Anaemia shouldn’t be given any great significance:

False.  Even moderate anaemia reduces the quality of life for those who suffer from it. It can also be the first symptom of a disease. On the other hand, severe anaemia, especially if it develops suddenly, can compromise the function of the heart, the kidneys and other organs even to the point of being life threatening.

Now you know more about anaemia, we would like to repeat the same advice we always give, even at the risk of sounding annoying: if you have a problem, please go and see your doctor and please don’t believe everything you read on the internet.