Iron Deficiency: #1 Cause of Anemia
There are many different types of anemia, but Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) is a condition resulting from too little iron in the body which leads to too little oxygen in the body's blood cells. In the USA, despite food fortification, iron deficiency is on the rise in certain populations. Iron deficiency at critical times of growth and development can result in premature births, low birth weight babies, delayed growth and development, delayed normal infant activity and movement.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause of anemia in the world. It is estimated that at least two billion people worldwide are affected and at least 3.5 million Americans are anemic, but the actual number of people suffering from anemia is probably far greater. Unfortunately, anemia is often overlooked.
Anemia Leads to Numerous Health Problems
While anemia is not as recognized a diagnosis as cancer, for example, it has far-reaching implications on cardiovascular and overall health. Many individuals, including physicians, erroneously consider anemia to be a benign condition when, in fact, anemia can reduce quality of life and increase the risk of death. Anemia is associated with a wide array of health problems, including a reduced life expectancy, decreased ability to live independently, increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, and worsening of dementia. Anemia may also be the first sign of a serious underlying disease such as cancer or nutritional deficiency. Unrecognized and untreated, these diseases can have serious consequences, even death.
Anemia Results in Poor Cognitive Skills
Anemia can result in poor memory or cognitive skills (mental function) and can result in lower performance in school, work, and in military or recreational activities. Lower IQs have been linked to iron deficiency occurring during critical periods of growth.
Anemia: Detection and Diagnosis
Early detection is so very important. Anemia can be diagnosed by a *simple blood test, but unfortunately, your doctor may not routinely test for iron and your insurance company may not cover the costs of testing. If that is the case, we highly recommend that you click HERE to order easy and affordable iron tests.
The tests used most often to detect iron deficiency include hemoglobin (the iron-containing protein in the blood that carries iron and oxygen to cells), hematocrit (provides the percentage measures of of red blood cells in the blood), serum ferritin (indicates the amount of iron stored in the body), and serum iron and iron-binding capacity (IBC, UIBC or TIBC). The latter measures are used to calculate transferrin-iron saturation percentage (TS%), a measure of iron in transit in the serum.
Serum ferritin is a very important test because it helps distinguish between iron deficiency anemia and anemia of chronic disease (also called anemia of inflammatory response). In cases of iron deficiency anemia, iron supplements can be helpful; but in cases of anemia of chronic disease, iron supplements could be harmful, even fatal.
Other tests might include: a complete blood count, zinc protoporphyrin, free erythrocyte protoporphyrin or reticulocyte hemoglobin content (CHr). To learn more about these tests visit tests to determine iron levels.
*IMPORTANT TO KNOW: A diagnosis of iron deficiency can be made when a person has BOTH low hemoglobin and hematocrit AND a low serum ferritin. Serum iron and transferrin-iron saturation percentage will also be low in a person who is iron deficient. Iron deficiency without anemia can occur when a person has a normal hemoglobin, but below normal serum ferritin and/or transferrin saturation. Iron deficiency with anemia can occur when a person has low values of both serum ferritin and hemoglobin.
Click HERE for our Personal Health Profile which lists the normal ranges for blood count, iron panels and a variety of other tests you doctor may perform. You can log your medical information on this form to keep as a personal record.
For a list of the signs and symptoms associated with IDA, please visit our Red Flags page and read descriptive accounts and view our Video Blogs on our Personal Stories page.