Anemia affects more than 1.5 billion people globally, many of whom may not be aware of their condition due to a lack of easy, affordable testing. It can be an overwhelming disease to live with, and even doctors struggle to correctly identify and diagnose patients.
Part of the reason for that is there are different types of anemia, each with an array of symptoms that can come and go and often overlap with other medical conditions, and a general misunderstanding of the condition itself. Even those who have lived with it for years can be confused by what’s going on inside their body due to a lack of accessible education and resources.
That’s where we come in.
At Sanguina, we’re dedicated to giving people the tools they need to maintain their health on a daily basis. The first step is education, so consider this your crash course on everything anemia.
Simply put: Anemia is a medical condition wherein your body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells.
It’s not that simple, though — anemia comes in different forms, each with its own root cause and effects on your body. You’ve probably heard that anemia has something to do with iron levels, and maybe you’ve even heard of hemoglobin. In that case, you’re most likely thinking of the two most prominent types.
- Iron deficiency anemia – A common form of anemia caused by a lack of iron.. Without enough iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin, which means fewer healthy red blood cells. This type of anemia can be caused by lifestyle and diet choices, pregnancy, menstruation, and bleeding disorders. Introducing iron-rich foods, or supplements, can help boost iron levels.
- Vitamin deficiency anemia – Similar to iron deficiency, this form of anemia occurs when your body lacks essential vitamins like folate, B-12, and Vitamin C. Eating vitamin-rich foods or taking supplements can help restore your body’s balance.
Rare types of anemia, of which there are dozens, include:
- Thalassemia – A genetic disorder that causes your body to have less hemoglobin, and therefore fewer healthy red blood cells. Diagnosing thalassemia requires in-depth diagnostic testing, and while diet and lifestyle changes may help, treatment for more severe cases may include regular blood transfusions.
- Sickle Cell Anemia – One of several disorders associated with Sickle Cell Disease, this genetic condition causes your body to produce red blood cells that are shaped like sickles, or crescent moons. These malformed red blood cells are unable to carry oxygen molecules as well as healthy red blood cells. Patients with sickle cell anemia must be closely monitored by health care professionals, as this disorder can lead to further medical complications.
- Aplastic anemia – A rare form of anemia in which your body simply stops producing a sufficient amount of healthy red blood cells. This condition must be closely monitored by health care professionals, as it can lead to severe infections and uncontrolled bleeding.
The Basics of Blood
It’s impossible to talk about anemia without discussing the thing it’s directly impacting —your blood.
The red liquid pumping through your arteries and veins is actually composed of tens of trillions of microscopic red blood cells. These cells give your blood a crimson hue, and carry oxygen throughout your entire body to ensure your organs and muscles can function properly.
Red blood cells are shaped like donuts with no hole in the middle (so, danishes?) and act as tiny transports for even tinier O2 molecules. The distance between your lungs and your pinky toe makes for one heck of a ride, so your blood cells use a protein called hemoglobin as a way to keep oxygen from falling off along the way.
What is Hemoglobin?
Hemoglobin is the stuff that helps oxygen stick to your blood cells. Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein that exists inside each and every red blood cell, and it acts like a magnet for oxygen while they surf around your circulatory system.
Given that your blood normally contains between 20-30 trillion red blood cells, it’s nearly impossible to figure out if you don’t have enough. Your smartphone calculator probably can’t even count that high.
However, it’s possible to quantify how much hemoglobin is in your body. Because it’s present in all of your red blood cells, hemoglobin is a good indicator of the health of your blood.
The AnemoCheck app is designed to measure your hemoglobin levels to determine if you’re anemic—mostly because it’s a lot easier than trying to track down trillions of missing blood cells.
What About Iron?
Let’s bring it all together. Your blood carries oxygen around your body, and it uses hemoglobin like the safety bar on a roller coaster to keep O2 safely inside the car at all times. While the safety bar on a real coaster may be made of steel, your cells build hemoglobin using mineral iron.
The most important thing to understand is that your body can’t make hemoglobin without enough iron (and several other important vitamins). If you don’t get enough mineral iron through your diet, or have a predisposition to lower iron levels, that can affect your red blood cell production. Low iron levels lead to low hemoglobin levels, which equals fewer healthy red blood cells, which is the definition of anemia.
There’s a little bit more to it, but we’ll save that for another blog post.
Your New Vital Sign
AnemoCheck uses cutting-edge technology to measure your hemoglobin levels—and by extension, your healthy red blood cells— to give you a more clear picture of your overall health. It’s more than just anemia— hemoglobin is affected by multiple different factors, and measuring your levels can help you gain a deeper understanding of your body.
Wearable devices that measure your heart rate and blood pressure have given people more access to their health than ever before. Sanguina empowers you to measure your new vital sign, hemoglobin, to help spot the warning signs of anemia to put control of your health at your fingertips.
But how do those amazing fingernail selfies work? You’ll just have to wait to find out.