Six in 10 women and children in India are anaemic: Try these tips to prevent aneamia

Over 50% women & children in India are anaemic: Tips to prevent anaemia.

In India, more than 50 per cent of children, women of reproductive age, and pregnant women suffer from anaemia, making it a large-scale public health problem.

Anaemia is medically defined as a condition where there is a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin or a drop in the number of red blood cells in the blood. This may be due to several reasons with the most common one being a deficiency of iron, which is necessary to produce hemoglobin. Such anaemia is called iron deficiency or hypochromic or microcytic anaemia and is typical in pregnant women, growing children, and women with excessive bleeding during menstruation. But apart from that, other types of anaemia are caused due to a deficiency of vitamin B-12, destruction of red blood cells, and sickle cell anaemia. While the cause of anaemia is imperative in treating the condition, time is also of the essence for treatment to succeed.

A recent survey by the National Family Health Survey has shown that, in India, more than 50 per cent of children, women of reproductive age, and pregnant women suffer from anaemia, making it a large-scale public health problem.

The study, published in the Indian Journal of Public Health says that while anaemia is a global health problem in both developed and developing countries, children and pregnant women from poor socioeconomic status are more vulnerable to it. Nutritional anaemia due to iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia.

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"50 per cent of anaemia worldwide is due to iron deficiency. The leading causes of iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) in children is Low iron stores at birth due to high levels of maternal anaemia; Inappropriate feeding practices - lack of diversity and iron-rich food in complementary foods and feeding; Inadequate quantity of iron and iron enhancers (like vitamin C rich foods) in the diet along with low bioavailability of dietary iron; and Iron loss due to parasitic infestations like intestinal worms, malaria.

"Iron deficiency anaemia in women is mainly due to: Inadequate quantity of iron and iron enhancers (like vitamin C rich foods) in the diet along with low bioavailability of dietary iron; Iron loss during menstruation and childbirth; The physiological requirements of iron are higher in women during pregnancy and lactating period; Poor iron stores due to childhood deficiency; Teenage pregnancy and frequent pregnancies (interval of <2 years); Iron loss due to parasitic infestations like intestinal worms, malaria; and Poor compliance to prophylactic iron supplements during periods of enhanced need like pregnancy, lactating period, adolescence," Dr. Sebanti Ghosh - Country Program Director, Alive and Thrive, FHI360 told IANS.

The iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation program was introduced in India in the 1970s but was given importance only since 2018, under Anemia Mukt Bharat and POSHAN Abhiyaan, says an expert.

"At the state level, measures have been intensified and efforts are directed at improving supply and consumption. I understand the progress was good (before COVID) and schools closing. The strategy is correct and should make a difference if well implemented. The effort being made for streamlining IFA supply, creating demand for IFA, monitoring IFA consumption, and promoting a diversified balanced diet and fortified food is a very high priority of public health nutrition program,"Dr. Sheila Vir, Founder Director of the Public Health Nutrition Centre said.

For achieving the target, we need to go beyond the free supply of IFA or fortified food by the government. Children, adolescents, and women who do not attend government schools or the health systems are deprived of any inputs or information, Anaemia affects all socio-economic status persons. Investment in social marketing of weekly IFA supplements (WIFS) to women of reproductive age who have the resources to purchase low-cost IFA supplements needs to be introduced. Diet measures will take longer and need to realistically promote, she says.

Various strategies have been adopted to combat nutritional anemia in India which includes dietary diversification, food fortification, weekly iron, and folic acid supplementation, improving infant and young child feeding practices, and promoting safe water, hygiene, and sanitation.

"Food diversification approach designed to increase micronutrient intake through diet represents the most desirable and sustainable method for preventing micronutrient malnutrition. Foods of vegetable origin are the main source of iron in the diets of the majority of Indian people.

"The Indian diets are primarily derived from cereals, pulses, and vegetables and contain approximately 7 mg of iron per 1000 kcal. Bioavailability of iron from plant-based sources is low (5% in men and children and 8% in women) due to the presence of inhibitory factors such as phytates, polyphenols, tannins, and oxalates. Although heme iron derived from animal sources is better absorbed than non-heme iron derived from plant sources, whole cereals, whole pulses, and vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables (GLVs), contribute to a significant intake of dietary iron in Indian diets. Poor bioavailability of iron from non-heme sources) and increased bioavailability from heme sources needs to be balanced,"Dr. Kapil Yadav - Additional Professor, Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS told IANS.

According to Dr. Praveen Kumar, Director Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Associated Kalawati Saran Children's Hospital - New Delhi, "Lack of consumption of iron-rich food items, low bioavailability of dietary iron, lack of consumption of iron enhancers like vitamin c rich foods and excessive intake of tea/coffee are important dietary factors contributing nutritional anemia Improvement in dietary diversity will also increase consumption of iron, vitamin B12, folate, and other micronutrients and thus will help in eliminating nutritional causes of anaemia."

Some of the symptoms of this condition:

Fatigue: This is a very common symptom in most anemic people, and is usually accompanied by a loss of energy or the feeling of getting tired too quickly. This is mainly because of the lack of red blood cells in the body reduces the amount of fresh oxygen that is carried to the various organs. This in turn makes one tired, weak, and lethargic.

Difficulty concentrating: Another symptom that is due to the lack of energy in the body, difficulty concentrating directly relates to the lack of fresh oxygen in the blood. When the brain does not get enough oxygen it tends to get fatigued and starts to work on preserving its important functions like those that are necessary for survival. Since concentration on a task is not of top priority to the brain, a person with anaemia finds it difficult to concentrate on tasks at hand.

Shortness of breath and headache, especially with exertion: Ever wonder how your lungs work? Well, when we breathe in the fresh oxygen, it is carried by red blood cells and delivered to other organs in the body including the heart, brain, muscles, and all the other organs. When the very carriers of these red blood cells don't function properly, the body reacts to it adversely. That is why a person with anaemia will experience shortness of breath and headaches (brought on by the lack of oxygen). When exertion is added to the mix, it only makes matters worse making the body go into overdrive.

Pale skin: Our skin is lined with millions of capillaries that lie just below our skin. These capillaries give a person that pinkish hue. When there are low levels of red blood cells and oxygen in one's blood it leads to the paleness of the skin. This paleness may be found in one's nails too.

Cramps in the legs: The muscles in the legs are some of the largest and often need maximum blood supply and oxygen. Interestingly our calf muscles work as a heart and pump blood upwards into the upper parts of the legs. Moreover, muscles thrive on oxygen and cramp because they have no more of the nutrient.

Insomnia: Most anaemic are known to suffer from this condition and it is thought that it is because of another condition brought on by anaemia known as restless leg syndrome. This is often why people are unable to sleep making anaemic people insomniacs as well.

Also, everything has a cure, and so does anaemia! Here are some of the natural ways to prevent anaemia from affecting you.

# Up your intake of iron-rich foods. These include red meat, egg yolk, green leafy vegetables, prunes, raisins, chickpea, soybean, liver, nachni, dates, etc.

# It's not enough to just eat iron-rich foods. Your body can absorb the iron in these foods only if there is vitamin c as well. Eat foods that are rich in vitamin C. These include lemons, oranges, guavas, amla, etc. Vitamin C promotes iron absorption.

# Do not ignore Vitamin B 12 that's good for increasing iron. The foods include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy products.

# Folic acid produces a constituent of hemoglobin white blood cells. Some of the natural food sources of folic acid foods include eggs, leafy vegetables, dried beans, peas, beef liver, and fruits (bananas, oranges, etc).

(With inputs from IANS)

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