BLOOD TESTS ∙ 5 minutes read

Anaemia: the world’s most common nutritional disorder

By Ashton Sheriff | Medically reviewed by Danielle Brightman

It’s hard to believe that human blood contains the same element used to make steel aeroplane parts. But as far-fetched as it sounds, your blood does indeed contain iron: an essential trace mineral that your body needs to stay healthy and function at its best. 

And just as the parts of an aeroplane need to be checked every so often to make sure it’s fit to fly, your blood needs to be checked to make sure your body’s in good working order. That’s because the levels of nutrients in your blood (such as iron, vitamin B12, and folate) can change over time - and these changes may cause health issues if they’re left unaddressed for too long. 

For example, anaemia is a condition that can occur when you don’t consume enough iron, vitamin B12, or folate in your diet. It can significantly reduce your quality of life by making you feel extremely fatigued (tired). In some cases, it can be fatal if it isn’t treated. 

But fear not, because it’s possible to check your risk of anaemia with a blood test. A home blood test like The Fear Nothing Blood Test Plus can measure your iron, vitamin B12, and folate levels to assess your health and tell you if you’re at risk of developing anaemia (or even alert you if you already have it). 

This is essential because if it’s caught quickly, anaemia can be treated effectively and the chance of developing more severe health problems can be minimised. So, if you haven’t had a health check-up recently, it’s highly recommended that you book a blood test online to make sure you’re fully up to date and informed about your health.  

What is anaemia?

Anaemia occurs when you don’t have enough red blood cells in your body. Red blood cells are important because they contain a substance called haemoglobin that carries oxygen around the body. Not having enough red blood cells can cause you to feel extremely tired all the time and may lead to more serious health complications such as heart failure.   

What is the most common type of anaemia?

There are many types of anaemia. The most common type is iron deficiency anaemia which, believe it or not, also happens to be the most common nutritional disorder in the world. 

Two other common types of anaemia (particularly among vegetarians and vegans) are vitamin B12 and folate deficiency anaemia. Studies have shown the percentage of adult vegans who have vitamin B12 deficiency to be as high as 86.5% (ranging from 0% - 86.5%) and 81% in vegetarians (ranging from 0% - 81%).

What causes anaemia?

Iron deficiency anaemia is caused by not consuming enough iron in your diet. It may also be caused by excessive blood loss (e.g. due to an accident or surgery) or pregnancy. Likewise, vitamin B12 and folate deficiency anaemia is caused by a lack of vitamin B12 or folate in your diet. 

Anaemia can also be caused by other factors, including: 

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Kidney disease.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Cancer.
  • Crohn's disease.
  • Certain blood diseases. 
  • Acute or chronic inflammatory diseases.
  • Some medications. 
  • Autoimmune diseases. 
  • Exposure to certain chemicals. 
  • Genetics. 

What can I do to combat anaemia?

Anaemia caused by malnutrition (i.e. not getting enough nutrients in your diet) can be prevented by ensuring you consume enough iron, vitamin B12, and folate in your diet. 

Sources of iron in your diet such as red meat, beans (e.g. red kidney beans), and moringa powder should be incorporated into a balanced diet to avoid developing iron deficiency anaemia. Taking iron supplements is also another way you can keep your iron levels balanced. 

Similarly, including sources of vitamin B12 and folate in your diet (such as meat, eggs, and dark green leafy vegetables) can significantly reduce the risk of developing vitamin deficiency anaemia. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian and can’t get your vitamin B12 intake from meat, then foods fortified with vitamin B12 (foods that have vitamin B12 added to them) are a convenient option for making sure you receive the right amount of vitamins your body needs. 

Additionally, booking a blood test to check your iron, vitamin B12, and folate levels will help you know if they are all balanced. The Fear Nothing Blood Test Plus measures all three of these nutrient levels at once - as well as 18 other biomarkers - to check your anaemia risk and overall health. This can help you fine-tune your diet so that you can keep your nutrient levels in check and manage your health with greater precision. 

What are the symptoms of anaemia?

Anaemia symptoms can differ from person to person, depending on the type of anaemia they have. 

Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia include: 

  • Tiredness and lack of energy (fatigue).
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Heart palpitations (a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart).
  • Pale-looking skin.

If a person has vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia, they may experience symptoms such as: 

  • Pale, yellow-looking skin.
  • A sore and red tongue (glossitis).
  • Mouth ulcers.
  • Pins and needles (paraesthesia).
  • Disturbed vision.
  • Irritability.
  • Mood and behaviour changes.
  • Depression.

A full list of symptoms can be found here. Some people with a vitamin B12 deficiency may experience these symptoms even if they have not developed anaemia.

Lastly, symptoms of folate deficiency anaemia include:

  • Not being able to taste things properly.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Numbness and tingling in the feet and hands.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Depression.

The bottom line

Anaemia is a serious condition that affects the amount of red blood cells in your body. Both iron and vitamin deficiency anaemia are common but preventable conditions. Consuming enough iron, vitamin B12, and folate in your diet is one of the most effective ways to prevent yourself from developing these types of anaemia. 

Additionally, it’s recommended that you take a blood test for anaemia if you haven’t had one recently. A home blood test like the Fear Nothing Blood Test Plus measures your iron, vitamin B12, and folate levels all at once to give you an accurate assessment of your anaemia risk. By measuring these biomarkers, you can understand your current health and make positive adjustments to your lifestyle that help to improve your health both now and in the future. 

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