Anaemia, the silent killer, creeping up on urban folks

Analysis of haemoglobin levels in adults showed burden of anaemia in India’s urban population is higher than global prevalence: Study
Anaemia, the silent killer, creeping up on urban folks

KOCHI: The most common nutritional disorder, anaemia, could be a silent killer, if not identified and treated properly. Statistics show that every second woman in the country is anaemic, and they seek treatment only in the later stages, experts point out.

A study by the Metropolis Lab in Kerala involving 322 anaemic people, mostly women, from urban areas has revealed that a majority of them are deficient in folic acid, iron and vitamin B12 — the common causes of anaemia.

“In all the cases studied, folic acid deficiency was seen in 96%, while iron was found to be deficient in 59% cases and vitamin B12 in 41% cases. That means the deficiency of nutrients like folic acid, iron and vitamin B12 is still contributing to anaemia in the cities of Kerala,” said Dr Ramesh Kumar, chief executive officer-Kerala operations, Metropolis Healthcare.

Nationally, an analysis of the haemoglobin levels in 19,536 apparently healthy adults from various cities during 2019-21 has revealed that the burden of anaemia in India’s urban population is higher (38.48%), compared to the worldwide prevalence, said Dr Megha Kambli, a pathologist with Metropolis.

Anaemia generally presents with symptoms like extreme fatigue, weakness, pale skin, rapid heartbeat, and headache. “Though various studies published previously have shown the prevalence of anaemia to be higher in rural and underdeveloped areas, data suggests higher prevalence even amongst the urban population. This emphasises the need for early diagnosis and intervention by increasing awareness, screening and evaluation of anaemia in urban areas as well,” Dr Megha pointed out.

Nutritional anaemia can be successfully treated and even prevented. Other types of anaemia, including iron-deficiency anaemia and thalassemia, can also be effectively managed with timely intervention.

“Diagnosing early is the best bet. A routine preventive health checkup, that includes complete blood examination, can pick up anaemia even when people don’t have any noticeable symptoms,” said Dr Ramesh. Meanwhile, an official with the National Health Mission said there is a tendency among people, especially women, to ignore the initial symptoms.

“It is only at later stages that they test and identify the issue. The National Family Health Survey statistics reveal that one in every five maternal deaths in India are directly due to anaemia. Initially, the cases were high in rural areas. But now the urban population too is affected. The current Covid situation will worsen the health condition of an anaemic patient,” the official said. If left untreated, anaemia can lead to complications affecting the heart and causing severe weakness, poor immunity and even multi-organ failure, doctors said.

Balanced diet is key

According to WHO, nutritional anaemia is the most common condition. To prevent and manage it, balanced diet plays a crucial role.

Following a healthy diet ensures that the body gets enough of the nutrients needed to make healthy blood cells. Make following a healthy diet a family goal.

Eat plenty of iron-rich foods, green and leafy vegetables, lean red meat, lentils, beans, fortified cereals and breads, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, and vitamin C-rich foods.

The common causes of anaemia are deficiency of iron, vitamin B or folic acid.

Other causes include heavy or frequent bleeding, presence of underlying long-term diseases, infections, and abnormalities in haemoglobin or red blood cells.

Causes of anaemia

Blood loss: Gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcers, hemorrhoids, gastritis, and cancer. Menstruation and childbirth in women.

Decreased or faulty red blood cell production: Iron deficiency & vitamin deficiency, bone marrow and stem cell problems

Anaemia associated with other conditions: Advanced kidney disease, hypothyroidism, other chronic diseases such as cancer, infection, lupus, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis

Destruction of red blood cells: Inherited conditions such as sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia. Toxins due to advanced liver or kidney disease.

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