Hemoglobin (Hb) is an oxygen carrying protein present in the red blood cells. We all know that the oxygen we breathe is transported to the rest of the body by blood. The actual work of transporting oxygen is done by the hemoglobin. It does this work by binding the molecules to itself and carrying them to those parts of the body where oxygen is needed. Hence we can see that hemoglobin performs a very important function.
So, a problem of low hemoglobin is understandably grave, as if there isn't enough hemoglobin in blood, the oxygen supply to various parts of the body will be less. If the oxygen isn't supplied to various parts of the body, its functioning will be hampered. The most common symptom shown is fatigue. People with low hemoglobin levels get very tired as their cells do not get enough oxygen to perform their activities.
Other common symptoms include fainting, loss of normal skin color and shortness of breath. When the body is short of hemoglobin, the heart has to pump the blood harder than normal to ensure that the oxygen reaches where it is needed. Hence, there is a chance that continued low levels may result in heart diseases.
Before we get into the details, we first need to know how hemoglobin levels are calculated and how these are measured. Hemoglobin is measured based on a sample of blood extracted from your body. While measuring it, you have to first extract a little blood from your body as a sample. You put your blood sample on a machine. These days, there are machines that are designed to perform basic blood analysis. These machines break down the composition of red blood cells to measure the hemoglobin in it. It is measured as the amount of hemoglobin in grams in the blood per deciliter (100ml) of blood.
Normal and Low Levels
The normal hemoglobin levels vary based on the age and gender of the person who is being tested. The widely accepted levels for people of various age groups are given below.
- Newborn Babies: 17-22 gm/dl
- Children: 11-13 gm/dl
- Adult Males: 14-18 gm/dl
- Adult Women: 12-16 gm/dl
- Elderly Males: 12.4-14.9 gm/dl
- Elderly Females: 11.7-13.8 gm/dl
Causes of Low Levels of Hemoglobin
So if your hemoglobin level is lower than the lower limit for your group, that means you have low hemoglobin levels.
- Low hemoglobin levels are usually due to nutritional deficiency especially iron deficiency. If you are not consuming the required daily amount of iron, vitamin B12 and folate, you are going to have the problem.
- One of the reasons for perpetually low levels is a bone marrow problem.
- Among temporary reasons of low levels we have accidents or surgeries that led to severe loss of blood and medications that may affect hemoglobin levels.
- A rather serious cause is anemia, the cause of which can be low intake of vitamins or chronic diseases.
Hemoglobin levels can be resurrected by following a balanced diet. A person with low hemoglobin levels needs to consume enough iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid. If that doesn't work, then one may have to resort to consuming the above nutrients externally in the form of supplements.