People with iron-deficiency anemia can get tired easily, resulting in reduced learning ability, a physician in Taipei said, citing the case of a 16-year-old girl diagnosed with the condition who showed symptoms and had low grades at school.
Her mother took the girl to Shu Tien Clinic after experiencing frequent dizzy spells and fatigue, as well palpitations and difficulty breathing during physical activity, said Ho Yi-cheng (何一成), a family practitioner at the clinic, adding that the girl’s grades were also falling.
The girl’s skin, conjunctivas and nail beds were pale when she arrived at the clinic, he said, adding that a blood test showed that her hemoglobin level was 9.6 grams per deciliter (g/dL) of blood, below the normal value of 11.6g/dL to 16g/dL for her age.
Her level of ferritin — a protein that stores iron and releases it in a controlled fashion — was 5.8 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), well below the normal range of 10ng/mL to 200ng/mL, he added.
As she had no chronic bleeding, she was diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia, Ho said.
Signs of iron-deficiency anemia include weakness, fatigue, dizziness or lightheadedness, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, pale skin and reduced cognitive performance, he said.
After taking oral supplements for a month, the girl’s hemoglobin level increased to 11.3g/dL and the dizziness and fatigue were relieved, he said, adding that her mother said that her grades had improved.
Iron is an essential element for blood production and hemoglobin, a protein inside red blood cells, is responsible for carrying almost all the oxygen in the blood to organs and tissues so that they can carry out their functions, Ho said.
Studies have shown that low hemoglobin levels can have a negative effect on cognitive performance and learning ability, so if the girl’s grades had dropped due to her condition, her grades are likely to improve after she gets enough iron supplements, he said.
People can get iron from food, such as liver and organ meats, red meat, sesame seeds, seaweed, clams and dark-green leafy vegetables, so they do not need to take iron supplements, as excessive intake of iron can damage the body, Ho said.
People should also avoid drinking beverages that contain tannin, such as coffee, tea and milk tea 30 minutes before or after eating food that provides iron, as tannin inhibits iron absorption, he added.
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