By Dr. Pitamber Sadhwani, General Physician,
Though blood looks like a uniform red liquid, it comprises of majorly of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. These red blood cells contain a protein known as haemoglobin that is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the other organs and tissues of the body and transporting carbon dioxide back to the lungs. A person’s haemoglobin count can easily be measured by a blood test. This is categorised according to age and sex and varies by approximately 0.5 grams per decilitre for every group. For adults, low haemoglobin levels are usually defined as being less than 135 grams per litre for men and 12 grams per litre for women.
If your haemoglobin count is only slightly lower than normal, you may not notice anything amiss. A noticeably low haemoglobin count can indicate conditions such as anaemia. Some of the symptoms of low haemoglobin levels are:
- Headaches and dizzy spells
- Reduced attention span
- Difficulty concentrating
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin and gums
Persistent low haemoglobin levels and extreme low counts should never be ignored as it can lead to a number of other problems. Some of the effects of low haemoglobin are:
Increased risk of heart disease and strokes
A low haemoglobin level can increase a person’s risk of suffering from heart diseases. This is because, without adequate haemoglobin in the blood, the heart is under extra pressure to ensure enough oxygen reaches the other organs in the body. For people already suffering from heart diseases, low haemoglobin levels may worsen the condition.
Lowered energy levels
Without oxygen, food cannot be converted into energy. Thus a low haemoglobin level affects the digestion process and its metabolism leaving a person feeling tired and lifeless. This, in turn, can lead to weight gain and a number of other health problems associated with it.
Weakened oral health
A low level of haemoglobin in the body can leave you with pale gums and an increased risk of suffering from gum diseases such as periodontitis. It has also been associated with a condition known as glossitis or the inflammation of the tongue.
When oxygen is not able to travel through the body easily healing of wounds may be slowed down. This is because the healing process relies on oxygenation. Due to the slow healing process, a low haemoglobin level can also increase your risk of infections and other complications.