What is haemoglobin?
As a school-going student, we all have learnt about haemoglobin, its levels and its importance in the human body. Let’s brush up those facts again. Haemoglobin is a protein molecule present in Red Blood Cells (RBC) that acts as a carrier of oxygen to the lungs from the body tissues and then carries back carbon-dioxide from the body tissues to the lungs.
Haemoglobin has four protein molecules (globulin chains) that are inter-connected. A haemoglobin molecule has two alpha-globulins chains and two beta-globulin chains. But do you know that an infant haemoglobin molecule has no presence of any beta-globulins chains? They have two gamma chains along with the alpha chains; and the gamma chains get replaced with the beta chains as they grow into adults.
Normal Haemoglobin range
Maintaining haemoglobin at a normal range is very important. Let us take a look at the normal range of haemoglobin for genders and different age groups.
Adult Men - 13.6 to 17.7 g/dl
Adult Women - 12.1 to 15.1 g/dl
Children (at birth) - 13.5 to 24.0 g/dl
Children (6-12 yrs) - 11.5 to 15.5 g/dl
Reasons of low haemoglobin level
When your blood test detects a value that is lower than the normal range of haemoglobin, it is known as anaemia and the person is called anaemic. Here are some common factors that may lead to anaemia :
- Nutritional Deficiency (inadequate iron, folic acid, Vitamin B12 & Vitamin C in food intake)
- Abnormal Kidney conditions
- Post-surgery or post-accident blood loss
- Ulcers or Colon Cancer leading to gastrointestinal blood loss
- Sickle cell anaemia or thalassemia that leads to abnormal haemoglobin structure
Reasons of high haemoglobin level
A low level of haemoglobin irks us and we try finding out means to increase it to normal levels with proper diet or supplements. But do you also know that high haemoglobin level also exists?
Here are a few common causes:
- Higher altitude residents and smokers
- Patients with emphysema (advanced lung disease)
- Polycythemia vera (Bone marrow disorders/blood cancer)
- Drug abuse or doping
How haemoglobin helps maintain RBC shape?
The iron molecule that is prevalent in haemoglobin accounts for the small, round and biconcave disc shape of the Red Blood cells.
Symptoms of low haemoglobin level
Are you facing one of these symptoms? Your blood might not contain optimum amount of haemoglobin. You might also be anaemic too.
- Pale skin
- Dizziness and nauseated
- Shortness of breath
- Leg Cramps
Foods to boost haemoglobin level
A healthy nutrition gives you a healthy body. Lack of iron, folic acid and Vitamins B12 and C leads to lower haemoglobin level, thus causing anaemia. Besides supplements, your diet calls for a change with inclusion of minerals and nutrients like iron, folate, Vit B12 and Vit C.
1. Iron - The first and the foremost mineral in food needed to increase haemoglobin level is iron. Iron plays a vital role in the formation of haemoglobin.
Liver, shellfish, spinach/kale, broccoli, beef, green beans are rich sources of iron. Alternatively, you can also consult a doctor and consume iron supplements if you are anaemic.
2. Folate - It is one of the B Vitamins that in the form of folic acid treats folate deficiency anaemia. Adequate amount of folate is required for RBCs to mature so as to maintain the haemoglobin level.
Have enough of spinach, avocado, kidney beans, peanuts and lettuce to ward off anaemia.
3. Vitamin B12 - Vitamin B12 is responsible for the formation of red blood cells. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 in diet may lead to macrocytic anemia. Include foods like red meats, poultry, milk, eggs, some fishes to increase the amount of Vitamin B12 in your diet.
4. Vitamin C - Why Vitamin C? Vitamin C contains a rich molecule that increases in iron absorption. Also, it helps to synthesise RBCs. Eat citrus-rich fruits like oranges, lemon, grapefruit and tomatoes. Also, increase intake of other Vitamin C rich foods like papaya, broccoli, strawberries and bell peppers.
Some other foods that boost your haemoglobin level are pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, nuts, mulberries, currants, watermelon, apples and pomegranates.
Haemoglobin and Pregnancy
Haemoglobin count is a very important factor to ensure healthy pregnancy. Since the volume of the blood increases by 50% during the gestation period, it is therefore quite common for the haemoglobin levels to fall. Have lot of green leafy vegetables, dry fruits, sesame seeds, citric fruits, and avoid gluten and caffeine to maintain healthy haemoglobin level.
If you are pregnant or notice any of the above mentioned abnormalities, book a visit to the pathology or consult your nearest haematologist. Zoylo gives you access to the best pathologists and haematologists.