Pune, December 30, 2017: A staggering 51% of Indian women under the reproductive age are anemic, which is higher than the world wide prevalence of around 46.8 crore non-pregnant women worldwide. Around 48% of women are suffering from anemia in the state, as well as prevalence of the disease is as high as 53% of children in the state.
So, why the prevalence of anemia in women is so high? “As anemia is caused due to iron deficiency in the body, it has been seen that women are most affected by the disease. This is primarily because a majority of women in India does not have balanced and nutritional diet because of various social and economic factors. India is facing a double edged sword of obesity and malnutrition. Even though the infant mortality has improved, it is not enough. Due to lack of nutrition in children and rising obesity, the rates of anemic children are rapidly rising. In addition, pregnancy and blood loss due to menstruation causes iron deficiency in women. The hormonal changes during various stages of adolescence, lactation, menopause, and pregnancy create more demand for iron and calcium. Blood loss also happens during child birth, which contributes to anemia. Iron deficiency results in impaired formation of hemoglobin,” explained Dr. Mukta Paul, Consultant - Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune.
One of the causes for anemia is the inability to absorb iron by the body. People who have suffered intestinal surgeries or diseases may have reduced ability to absorb iron. Nutrition is the major factor that is contributing to anemia. Iron deficiency may also increase due to deficiencies in folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin A or B12. Vitamin C helps to absorb iron in the body. In India, low dietary intake or iron (less than 20 mg /day) and folic acid intake (less than 70 micrograms/day) is contributing to the increased prevalence of the disease. Women, especially in the Indian context, are known to put their dietary and health needs secondary to family due to various socio-cultural factors. There is an urgent need of spreading awareness across the country to put focus back on women’s health and nutrition.
Anemia is preventable and a good diet plays a crucial role in avoiding the disease. “One has to check iron and vitamin C intake and ensure that they are adequate. Non-vegetarian food such as eggs and chicken and seafood and vegetables such as beans, pumpkin, spinach, and green vegetables are good source of iron. Raisins and dry fruits are good source of iron as well. For vitamin C, citrus fruits such as oranges and melons and others like strawberries, grapefruit, papaya, mangoes are good source of vitamin C and as well as are leafy vegetables, broccoli, tomatoes, and cauliflower,” said Dr. Mukta Paul, Consultant - Obstetrician and Gynecologist , Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune.
To treat the disease, it is important to get the patient diagnosed of any underlying cause for bleeding and treating it. Apart from following a healthy nutritional diet, patients are prescribed iron and vitamin C supplements. Severe cases are usually treated by blood transfusion.
Fatigue and loss of energy, unusually rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath, difficulty in concentration, insomnia are some of the common symptoms of anemia. Iron deficiency may cause soreness of mouth with cracks at the corners, and a special condition called pica which includes hunger for strange substances such as paper, ice, or dirt. Upward curvature of nails too is a sign of iron deficiency. Also, people with vitamin B12 deficiency will feel clumsiness and stiffness of the arms and legs. Women should be cautious about these symptoms and need to focus on their diet and health. Timely identification of these symptoms and seeking medical attention will help early diagnosis and treatment of the disease.