Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Are You Lacking IRON? ; Iron-Deficiency Anaemia Is One of the Most Common Nutritional Disorders in the UK Yet Many People Don't Know the Signs. Here SOPHIE HERDMAN Learns Why We Should Pump Up Our Iron

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Are You Lacking IRON? ; Iron-Deficiency Anaemia Is One of the Most Common Nutritional Disorders in the UK Yet Many People Don't Know the Signs. Here SOPHIE HERDMAN Learns Why We Should Pump Up Our Iron

Article excerpt

THERE are many different types of anaemia - from vitamin B12 to folate deficiencies - but by far the most common form is iron- deficiency anaemia, and it affects more people than you might think.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that more than 30% of the world's population is anaemic, mainly due to a lack of iron.

In fact, as Dr Shahzadi Saleem, a GP based in Oxford, points out, iron deficiency is one of the most common - if not the most common - nutritional disorders.

WHAT IS IT? PUT simply, it means that levels of haemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen through the blood, are below normal.

Dr Saleem says that in the UK, normal levels are measured as 13.5g per decilitre in men, 11.5 in women and 11 in pregnant women.

SPOT THE SIGNS THE main symptoms are chronic tiredness and lethargy.

"That's the most common thing that people present to the GP," says Dr Saleem. "Then we expand upon it and they're usually also feeling short of breath on exertion. They might also be suffering with palpitations, anxiety and hair loss."

These symptoms might seem small, but they can have a big impact on your life.

"If you're feeling anxious, that can make you feel depressed. It can have a domino effect on the quality of your life," says Dr Saleem.

Other symptoms include headaches, constipation, recurrent coughs and colds, having a sore mouth and what Dr Saleem describes as a geographical tongue.

"You have a pattern on the tongue which is dermatitis, it's classical to iron deficiency, but usually you just have a sore tongue, and sometimes people can have difficulty swallowing because they have a dry mouth."

Sometimes children will develop pica - urges to eat non-food items, such as mud or paper.

Iron-deficiency anaemia can also occur as a result of another illness, like a stomach ulcer which causes chronic blood loss, inflammatory bowel disease which reduces the amount of iron absorbed in the body, and chronic kidney disease, where red blood cells are not produced at the normal rate.

When this is the case, people might not think that they're anaemic, as they just assume their symptoms are caused by their ongoing illness.

"Or, if it's slow bleeding from the stomach, it might be such a gradual process that people are not aware of it happening," says Dr Saleem.

CAUSES AS mentioned, iron-deficiency anaemia can be a result of a chronic condition, but there are simpler causes too.

"The most common one is probably poor dietary intake," says Dr Saleem. "You're simply not taking in enough iron-rich food, such as red meat, nuts, lentils, chicken liver and green vegetables."

Young women are particularly at risk of diet-related iron- deficiency.

"Women are often more conscious of what they're eating, but if you are very health and weight conscious and don't want to eat so much red meat, opting instead for lean white meat, you might miss out on iron. …

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