Everyone feels run down at some point. If you’ve had less than stellar sleep or if you’re more active, that sluggishness could be your body’s reaction to the extra activity or a bout of insomnia. However, if you’re constantly feeling drained for no reason, and you’re experiencing symptoms like skin pallor, dizziness or headaches, you could be anemic. Thankfully, taking an anemia test at home is easy, painless and quick.
What is Anemia?
Most people equate anemia with low iron, and, while iron supplements are a common treatment for anemia, the condition actually means that your body isn’t producing adequate amounts of red blood cells. These blood cells are responsible for moving oxygen throughout our body, and, when our red blood cells are low, the lack of oxygen throughout the body makes us feel exhausted all the time.
Without proper amounts of oxygen, the body cannot function as it should. Depleted red blood cells lead to those sluggish feelings, headaches and can even cause more alarming symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath.
Different Types of Anemia
Anemia isn’t one condition—there are numerous types of anemia.
A serious form is called Sickle Cell Anemia. Individuals with this type of anemia may need blood transfusions or even a bone marrow transplant. Sickle Cell Anemia is hereditary, and a blood test can determine if an individual is at-risk.
According to the Mayo Clinic, other types of anemia include iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin-deficiency anemia, aplastic anemia, and thalassemia. While Thalassemia is hereditary, aplastic anemia can happen to anyone. However, Mayo Clinic explains that Aplastic Anemia can be caused by radiation/chemotherapy, pregnancy, infections, drugs, toxic chemicals, and other disorders.
Our eating habits can lead to vitamin deficiency anemia and iron-deficiency anemia (but other conditions can cause these types, too). In the absence of underlying conditions (like pregnancy or another medical issue), our diets could be the cause of anemia caused by a lack of vitamins or iron.
How to Test for Anemia
If you suspect that you might be anemic, getting tested is fairly simple and relatively pain-free. Yes, you can even test at home. The MyLAB Box rapid anemia test uses a small sample of your blood to measure and check your red blood cell count. This isn’t a vein puncture sample, however. You simply need to prick your finger for the at-home test.
Results are typically available within two minutes (yes, it‘s that quick). You don’t have to send in the sample! The results will reveal an adequate level of red blood cells or high/low levels. What do these results mean?
Low levels could indicate several conditions associated with anemia: iron/vitamin deficiencies, pregnancy, Thalassemia, kidney disease, cancer, Sickle Cell Anemia, or alcoholism. The test cannot diagnose any particular condition, it simply reveals the level.
High levels of blood cells indicate that you aren’t anemic, but high levels are concerning, too. There could be other underlying medical issues that need to be diagnosed. What causes increased levels of red blood cells? There are a number of conditions that could elevate the levels, including lung/heart disease and Polycythemia vera (the condition causes you to produce too many red cells).
If Levels are Too High/Low, What Happens Next?
After you receive your results, you can contact us for a free virtual physician consultation. One of our physicians will discuss your results and tell you the next steps you may need to take. The physician may prescribe iron tablets to help boost levels in the short term. However, depending on your results, you could require more testing or possibly even immediate medical attention.
When Anemia is Caused by Iron or Vitamin Deficiencies
While anemia can be caused by many serious conditions, your diet also could affect your blood cell production. If your doctor determines that the low level is tied to vitamin deficiencies or iron deficiencies, and there is no underlying medical condition, you could simply need vitamin or iron supplements. Your doctor also could encourage you to change your diet.
What foods are high in iron? The Red Cross offers the full list of healthy foods that are good for the blood:
- Meats (all of them include lots of “heme iron,” which is good for the body)
- Seafood (fish is another source of “heme iron)
- Vegetables (spinach, sweet potatoes, peas, broccoli, string beans, kale, etc.)
- Fruit (strawberries, watermelon, raisins, dates, figs, prunes, dried apricots and peaches)
- Breads (white bread, whole wheat, oat cereal, bran, rye bread, etc.)
How to Boost Iron When You’re Vegan
Does being a vegan mean that you’re at a higher risk for anemia? Maintaining a healthy diet is important for everyone to keep levels in check, and Vegans may simply need to be more mindful about choosing non-animal foods that are high in iron.
According to Stanford Medicine’s Scope Blog, the form of iron that can be easily absorbed—the ‘heme iron’—is found in animal products like meat. Obviously, abiding by a vegan diet means avoiding all animal products, but iron consumption is still important. To help boost iron, Stanford recommends Vegans pair foods rich in non-heme iron with foods with Vitamin C. The pairing helps the body more easily absorb iron. Stanford also recommends backing away from foods and beverages that can negatively affect iron absorption—coffee (tea and soda, too), dairy, fiber-rich foods, wine, and beer.
If you’re feeling sluggish and you notice any other symptoms associated with anemia, take a rapid anemia test today. At-home anemia test kits let you understand your levels within minutes. When you know that your numbers are too low (or too high), you can take steps to understand any underlying causes.