Women of childbearing age are at special risk for anemia because they lose blood every month during their regular menstruation cycle.
For most women this is not a problem. But if you bleed heavily, have uterine fibroids, or eat a poor diet, you could become anemic.
Anemia can develop very slowly, and may not have any symptoms at first. As the condition gets worse, these are some of the symptoms you may notice.
- You may feel weak, dizzy, or very fatigued.
- You may experience shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Your heartbeat may be unusually rapid or irregular.
- Your hands and feet may feel numb or cold, and your body temperature may be lower than normal.
- You may experience an increased number of headache.
- You may look pale.
- You may be more irritable than usual, and you may have trouble at work or school.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, your doctor may do a simple blood test to check for anemia.
To prevent anemia, you need to make sure you eat a healthy diet which includes plenty of iron. Iron is needed by your blood to carry oxygen to all the various cells in your body.
Foods rich in iron include lean red meat, fish, liver, lentils, beans, dried fruits (prunes, raisins, apricots), green vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli), and oysters. Many cereal and bread products are also fortified with iron.
Avoid drinking tea or coffee with food as these can make it more difficult for your body to absorb iron. Calcium can also interfere with iron absorption.
To help your body absorb the iron you eat, you need plenty of vitamin C. Choose fruits rich in vitamin C like oranges, strawberries, and broccoli.
Most multi-vitamin and mineral products contain iron. Do not take special iron supplements without checking with your health care provider first. Iron supplements can cause side effects including constipation, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting.
To minimize side effects,you should work up to the full dose gradually, and always take the supplement pills with food. If you are experiencing side effects, talk to your doctor about changing diet supplements. Always keep iron containing products out of the reach of children.
Women aged 14 to 18 need about 15 mgs. of iron daily, or 27 mgs. of iron if they are pregnant. Women aged 19 to 50 need about 18 mgs. of iron daily, or 27 mgs. of iron if they are pregnant. After age 51, most women need about 8 mgs. of iron each day.