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Women are at higher risk of suffering from iron-deficiency anaemia

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Spot the telltale signs that your body is lacking in iron

Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent nutritional deficiencies in the world. It accounts for almost half of all anaemia cases.

The World Health Organization defines anaemia as having blood haemoglobin values of less than 7.7mmol/l in men and 7.4mmol/l in women.

Iron deficiency anaemia can occur as a result of an increased demand for iron in the body that your intake cannot fulfil, reduced absorption of iron, and also daily loss of iron through body fluids such as urine and sweat.

Data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute shows that women are at higher risk of iron-deficiency anaemia compared to men.

Almost half of all women in Singapore could be suffering from iron deficiency, but are not aware of it.

This is due to a number of factors such as blood loss due to monthly menstrual cycles and also during pregnancy because extra iron is needed for foetal development and increased blood volume.

Dr Wong Wei Mon, Deputy Medical Director of Raffles Medical said: “For men, those who are at risk for iron deficiency are those identified as strict vegetarians or suffering from diseases that affect iron absorption. Iron deficiency can also occur from gastrointestinal blood loss.”

Know the signs of anaemia

If you find yourself beset with feelings of mental fatigue and physical exhaustion after a long day in the office, you may be suffering from anaemia brought on by iron deficiency.

Dizziness, weakness, headaches or chronic fatigue are also telltale signs of the condition.

Other signs to look out for include lack of energy, pale skin, easily out of breath, cold hands and feet, fast or irregular heartbeat and brittle or grooved nails.

It spells bad news for your health, as well as your performance at work, as it results in chronic fatigue and causes trouble in concentration, learning and remembering things.

A good way to determine if you may have Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is by requesting an iron test from your physician.

How much iron do you need?

A 2002 report jointly released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) states that at a minimum, an average adult requires 18mg of iron daily.

But the amount consumed by any individual should be adjusted for age and gender.

Health Promotion Board recommends 6mg of iron for adult males aged 18 and above. Women between the ages of 18 and 59 years old require 19mg of iron, while women aged 60 years and above require 6mg of iron a day.

The good news is, if you are suffering from iron deficiency, a dietary change may be enough to manage IDA and improve your quality of life.

Dr Wong said that there are two types of dietary iron, haem iron (found in animal sources such as red meat) and nonhaem iron (found in eggs and plant-based sources such as vegetables and cereals).

But haem iron has a higher bioavailability rate, with up to50 per cent of the intake being absorbed into the body while only up to 10 per cent of nonhaem iron is absorbed.

“Oral supplementation of iron is also shown to be an effective method in treating IDA,” said Dr Wong.

That is why iron supplements, such as Sangobion, can be a convenient way to improve your daily iron intake.

Sangobion contains organic iron, which has higher bioavailability than inorganic iron.

But, as with any supplement, it is best that you consult your doctor so that they can accurately assess your iron needs.