Iron Deficiency Anemia: Reduce Your Risk with Awareness

Awareness on Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) is the need of the hour, and P&G Health is working towards sensitizing people around timely diagnosis and treatment.
Iron deficiency anemia
Every 1 in 2 women in India suffers from iron deficiency. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Team Health Shots Published: 28 Dec 2023, 10:38 am IST
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Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) is a growing global concern arising out of nutritional deficiency of iron, one of the most important micronutrients required by the body. A lack of it leads to fatigue and weakness among other side effects, affecting productivity and more.

In India, anemia is a widely prevalent issue. As per the National Family Health Survey 5 (2019-21), it affects 57% women (15-49 years), 59.1% adolescent girls and 52.2% pregnant women (15-49 years).

Statistics also suggest that every 1 in 2 women in India suffers from iron deficiency anemia. One of the primary concerns is the lack of awareness, preventing individuals from recognizing the symptoms of anemia and seeking timely diagnosis and treatment.

What is Iron Deficiency Anemia?

Iron is a fundamental mineral crucial for the human body. It plays a vital role in the production of haemoglobin, a molecule found within red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

“Inadequate levels of iron in the body can lead to iron deficiency anemia. This, in turn, can result in fatigue, hair fall weakness, and a compromised immune system, thereby, majorly impacting our overall well-being,” says obstetrician-gynecologist Dr Jaydeep Tank, President Elect, Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI).

There are widespread misconceptions about iron deficiency. Misattribution of symptoms makes people ignore the lack of iron in their bodies. “People think they are feeling tired or weak due to a hectic lifestyle, stress and other factors while not even knowing that the underlying cause could be iron deficiency anemia,” added Dr Mukesh Savaliya, President, Ahmedabad Obstetric & Gynecological Society (AOGS).

Another prevalent misconception is that iron deficiency solely stems from dietary habits. Although diet plays a significant role, it is crucial to acknowledge that multiple factors, such as medical conditions, blood loss, and inherited red blood cell disorders can contribute to iron deficiency.

What are the most common signs of iron deficiency?

Whether it’s mild anemia or severe anemia, the implications of the condition on reproductive health and overall well-being are significant. Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include fatigue, tiredness, weakness, pale skin, and hair loss. People with mild anemia possess a slightly decreased level of haemoglobin in their body (HB Level 10 to 12) which does not show noticeable signs and often goes unnoticed by individuals as well as Healthcare Professionals (HCPs). Hence, recognizing the symptoms early on and seeking prompt medical attention is crucial.

P&G Health and FOGSI’s efforts to sensitize people on iron deficiency anemia

Keeping in mind the dire need to sensitize and educate individuals about iron deficiency anemia, P&G Health and FOGSI have been making strides towards educating and empowering people about this condition across the northern, eastern and southern cities of India through the Na Na Anemia campaign. Continuing this association further, they have launched the ‘12 Ka Naara’ initiative across the urban slums in Mumbai and Ahmedabad this Iron Deficiency Day. Inspired by the ideology of how women should possess the ideal haemoglobin count of 12, the campaign focuses on building conversations around the importance of early identification of IDA symptoms and encouraging consumers, especially women to take corrective action by visiting their healthcare provider.

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Why is iron important for women?

From the onset of menstruation to menopause and even in old age, women must take note of their iron intake. Heavy menstrual bleeding, poor dietary choices, and certain medical conditions can expose women to iron deficiency anemia.

“Women are extremely vulnerable, because right from adolescence when they have periods which may be heavy, they are not given treatment. Many older women often take supplements to take care of their skin and hair, but not iron supplements,” says Dr Anahita Chauhan, President, Mumbai Obstetric & Gynecological Society (MOGS).

“Women who engage in high-intensity physical activities, such as athletics, may also be at an increased risk due to higher iron demands associated with increased red blood cell production,” adds Dr Tank.

Iron levels are important during pregnancy
Check your iron levels before planning pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Pregnancy is another phase of life where iron levels play a key role.

“The need for iron significantly rises during pregnancy to sustain the developing foetus and placenta. Most Indian women begin pregnancy with low iron or iron deficiency. We see this as a common problem in lower-income sections of the country and in rural areas because they have no formal education, no access to information on the condition, lack proper nutritional needs and have limited access to treatment. In cases where dietary intake falls short, it can result in iron deficiency anemia, impacting both the well-being of the mother and the proper development of the baby,” explains Dr Savaliya.

How to prevent iron deficiency?

Addressing nutritional needs is the most effective way to treat and prevent anemia. Eating foods that are rich in iron, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and other nutrients is crucial.

Dr Tank points out that while there’s a belief that iron-rich foods alone can always meet the body’s requirements, some individuals may still face challenges in absorbing iron efficiently. Hence, 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 doesn’t meet the recommended dietary intake. Simply put, sometimes a balanced meal may not be just enough, and we need supplements to complete the nutrition that our body requires. Micronutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamin B not only help to maintain the blood health but also improve metabolism and keep us physically fit. Observe your symptoms, consume a diet that improves the iron stores in your body and visit your doctor for the right supplementation to keep iron deficiency anemia in check,” he adds.

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