Local News

For Some Women, Normal Diet Not Enough To Prevent Anemia

Posted September 15, 2006

— Women of childbearing years are most at risk for anemia. For a variety of reasons, some women have heavier than normal blood loss during monthly periods. For them, the iron they get through a normal diet is not enough.

Even with eating beef liver, Faye Bethea could not get enough iron in her diet. For women, a healthy range on the blood hemoglobin scale is between 12 and 16 grams per deciliter of blood. A few months ago, Faye was at 6 grams.

"Her iron tank was -- she was only at about half a tank, so to speak," said Dr. Jeffrey Crane, a hematologist at Rex Healthcare.

"(I was) tired all the time and just, I'd get up in the morning and still, by noon, I'd be ready to go back to bed," she said.

Bethea was diagnosed in 1992 with fibroid tumors in the uterus, which caused the heavy bleeding during her menstrual periods.

"Hence, the amount of blood loss worsens and the amount of iron loss becomes worse and iron intake in the person's diet can't keep up," Crane said.

The red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body tissues are fewer, smaller and paler in color. Bethea's diet did not help matters.

"First of all, I was like a junk-food junkie," Bethea said. "I didn't have time to sit down and eat right, so I pretty much had to change my whole diet."

Bethea had a hysterectomy in June to stop the menstrual cycles. Crane gave her an intravenous iron infusion and prescribed iron supplements to get her hemoglobin scale up above 12.

"It went from a 7 to a 9 after my surgery, and now I'm pretty much stuck at 9," Bethea said a month ago.

Now, with the supplements and an iron-rich diet, she's almost up to 14.

"I feel much better. I mowed my grass on Saturday, which was high as the house because of all the rain we've gotten, so I feel (a sense of) accomplishment. I feel better," she said.

An iron-rich diet comes from eating a variety of foods, including plenty of vegetables, legumes, occasionally eating red meat, liver, and foods like clams and oysters.


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