ANAEMIA – signs and symptoms to look out for


If you are a teenage girl in the UK you have an increased risk for developing iron-deficiency anaemia.  Current statistics in the UK show 44% of girls aged between 11-14 and 48% of girls aged between 15-18 have low intakes of iron in their diet. Vegetarians and Vegans are at further risk for iron deficiency because iron from plant foods is not as well absorbed as iron from animal sources.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of anaemia are primarily related to oxygen transport. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to all cells in the body. Iron is an integral component of haemoglobin. Iron deficiency anaemia causes a drop in red blood cells and haemoglobin. As the haemoglobin levels drop below normal, symptoms begin to appear.

Fatigue, Pallor, Rapid Heartbeat

The most common symptom of iron deficiency in teenagers is fatigue. The decrease in available oxygen because of inadequate haemoglobin means the body’s cells cannot carry out their metabolic functions. Red blood cells provide the normal pink colour to the skin, so a person with anaemia may be pale. Your heart will beat faster because it’s trying to get the required amount of oxygen to the body by speeding up the circulation.

Other Symptoms

Even before anaemia develops, iron deficiency can affect your mental functions. You may have difficulty concentrating, remembering things or learning something new. As iron deficiency anaemia progresses, you may feel tired all the time and short of breath. Climbing stairs or exercising can become a major effort, because your body cannot respond to the extra demand for oxygen. Headaches are another symptom of iron deficiency anaemia. You may feel cold all the time, have an inflamed tongue or be more susceptible to infections.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Blood tests can determine iron levels in the body, the number of red blood cells you have and the level of your haemoglobin. Iron deficiency may be corrected by dietary changes however you may also need iron supplements.

Dietary Sources

The recommended dietary allowance for iron is 11 milligrams for teen boys and 15 milligrams daily for teen girls.

Haem Iron-rich foods for teens include lean red meats, poultry, fish and other seafood, egg yolks. Meat proteins and vitamin C increase the body’s ability to absorb iron.

Non-haem iron such as dried beans, lentils, peas, broccoli, spinach, beans, fortified cereals, breads and whole grains.

Consume only small amounts of tea and coffee, as these can interfere with iron absorption.

100g Minced Beef = 2.7mg, 50g Salmon = 0.8mg, 100g Tuna in brine = 1.0mg, 100g Chicken Breast = 0.8mg, 42g Quinoa = 3.9mg, 2 slices Wholemeal Bread = 1.9mg, 100mg Liver Pate 5.9mg, 100g Eggs = 2.2mg, 100g Chickpeas = 2mg, 100g Dried apricots/figs = 3.5mg, 100g Almonds = 3mg, 100g Peanut Butter = 2.1mg, 100g Sesame Seeds = 10.4mg, 100g Sunflower Seeds = 6.4mg, 100g Spinach = 1.6mg

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