Iron deficiency: Rising prevalence of the condition and possible ways to combat it

Iron is present in hemoglobin which helps the RBCs carry oxygen to different parts of the body. Lack of iron content in the human body causes iron deficiency.

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As per a National Family Health Survey, 57% of women in India aged 15-49 years are anemic. (File)

By Dr. Sachin Pawar

The prevalence of iron deficiency has become quite high with a rapid increase in the number of cases, especially in women. Iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia is a clinical condition, which sets in due to very few healthy red blood cells (RBCs) present in the body. The red blood cells do the task of transporting oxygen to different body parts. This deficiency can also cause fatal complications, which makes it important for early detection of this condition.

Dr. Sachin Pawar, Head of Medical Affairs, P&G Health, breaks down the science behind iron deficiency to help us understand the condition better.

What causes iron deficiency?

Iron is present in hemoglobin which helps the RBCs carry oxygen to different parts of the body. Lack of iron content in the human body causes iron deficiency. Hence, when iron is deficient in the blood, it becomes difficult for the RBCs to transport oxygen which eventually leads to fatigue.

There are a lot of risks associated with iron deficiency: issues in pregnancy, coronary complications, and delayed development in children among others.

Iron deficiency in women

Studies suggest that iron deficiency is the most common cause for anemia and that 50% of anemia is caused by iron deficiency itself. It is also suggested that women have lower iron stores in their bodies as compared to men predominantly due to blood loss during menstruation. With every menstrual cycle, women lose iron from their bodies depending on their blood flow.

A consensus study conducted with nine medical experts specializing in Gynecology and Endocrinology to recognize the symptoms and the way forward, mentions that perimenopausal women are at a higher risk of iron deficiency as they have lower than recommended iron dietary intake. Iron deficiency in perimenopausal women leads to impaired cognitive functions because of which they suffer from poor memory, and difficulty in learning and paying attention. Hence, it becomes important to detect the symptoms from their onset and seek medical support for the same.

Addressing the lack of awareness around the symptoms

Mild iron deficiency anemia doesn’t cause many complications but if left untreated for a long time, the condition escalates. The symptoms are often overlooked and misinterpreted with other conditions or general fatigue. Dizziness, weakness, fatigue in the body due to lack of oxygen, poor appetite, and cold hands and feet are some of the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia.

There is a severe lack of awareness around the symptoms of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia which needs to be addressed. The rise in cases will continue unless people are educated about the condition and how it affects the quality of our life. Conducting awareness drives to help people understand iron deficiency better is the need of the hour.

Ways to get rid of iron deficiency

The most important component in combating iron deficiency is ensuring adequate levels of iron intake in your diet. Adding green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, peas along with meat and dry fruits such as raisins will help maintain healthy iron levels in your body.

In addition to the intake of food items rich in iron, oral consumption of iron supplementation can also help to prevent this condition. Supplementation replenishes various nutrients that are normally absent or are present in insufficient quantities in our diet. Simply put, sometimes our balanced meal may not be just enough, and we need supplements to complete the nutrition that our body requires. Micronutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin B not only help maintain our blood health but also improve our metabolism and keep us physically fit. Post consultation with a doctor, consumption of supplements can help to combat this deficiency.

Hence, detecting the symptoms while they are still in their nascent stage and seeking medical expertise is vital. Being watchful towards the symptoms, consuming a diet that improves the iron content in your body as well as consulting your doctor for the right supplementation is necessary to keep iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia at bay.

(The author is a Head Medical Affairs-India Cluster, Procter & Gamble Health. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the

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First published on: 21-03-2023 at 13:00 IST