Let's Talk Men's Health: Men Get Anaemia Too
Here’s how you can fortify yourself against iron deficiency and what foods you can eat to ward off anaemia.
(International Men's Day is celebrated every year on 19 November. FIT is republishing this story on men's health in this light.)
A new study published in The Lancet Global Health Journal on Friday, 8 November, studied 10,000 men (ages between 15 to 54) and reported that one in 4 men, that is a whopping 25 percent of them, suffer from anaemia.
This result comes as a bit of a surprise as the popular perception is that it's a women’s disease, caused mainly due to iron deficiency.
It’s time men are educated about this disorder too.
So What Is Anaemia?
Anaemia is a condition in which the hemoglobin concentration in the blood falls below the necessary level, resulting in a reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells.
As oxygen is required for the body to produce energy and maintain regular metabolism for every organ, you feel lack-luster and fatigued when you are anaemic.
Symptoms to Look out for
- General fatigue and lassitude
- Breathlessness or exertion
- Slow healing of wounds
- Dimness of vision
- Poor memory
- Pale, dull and haggard skin
- Premature wrinkles, dull and tired-looking eyes
- Tingling, pins and needles’ sensation in the fingers and toes
In fact, in severe anaemia one may experience headaches, leg pains or even angina.
Causes of Anaemia in Men
Not eating enough iron is the biggest cause.
Other possible ones include:
- Heavy loss of blood due to injury
- Bleeding piles
- Excessive dieting
- Rampant skipping of meals due to depression or work pressure
- Mal-absorption of nutrients in the gut
- Presence of worms in the intestine
- Vitamin B12 deficiency (vegetarians need to be careful of the condition known as pernicious anaemia as vitamin B12 is mainly found in meat and dairy products.)
- Vitamin C deficiency (needed for efficient iron absorption; You can get it from citrus fruits, amla, guava, capsicum)
- Deficiency of copper
- Infections and genetic factors
Who Can Develop Anaemia?
Anaemia is not an age or gender-specific problem; it can affect anyone.
Its prevalence in expecting mothers, however, may be as high as 60-70 percent.
Hemoglobin levels indicative of anemia in:
- Men: Below 13
- Women: Below 12
- Pregnant women: Below 11
Pump Up the Iron
- Dark green leafy vegetables (cauliflower greens, mustard greens, chulai or amaranth, parsley, mint).
These are some common sources of iron:
- Dried beans (especially soya, cowpea, kidney beans, bengal gram roasted)
- Dry fruits like raisins, dried apricots and dates
- Fruits like prunes, water melon
- Eggs (especially egg yolks)
- Chicken Liver, red meat
- Whole grain (bajra, buckwheat) Iron-fortified cereals
Boost the Absorption
The ‘haem’ factor is an important one. What is this exactly?
According to the New Zealand Nutritional Foundation, our food sources contain two types of food: haem and non-harm iron. Harm iron occurs in meat, poultry, and fish, and it is easily absorbed. On the other hand, non-harm iron is found in plant foods like vegetables, cereals, beans and lentils and is not absorbed by the body well.
So, if you mix some lean meat, fish, or poultry (haem iron) with beans or dark leafy greens in a meal, you can improve the absorption of vegetable sources of iron up to three times.
Also, iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach. Milk and antacids interfere with the absorption process, so avoid these while taking supplements.
Also, avoid drinking tea with meals since tannin in tea inhibits iron absorption from food.
It is also good to know that alcohol interferes with the absorption of nutrients in the body, particularly B vitamins (B1, B3, and folate) and Vitamin A, and leads to severe nutritional deficiencies.
Plus, our body needs folate to produce and maintain new blood cells.
Include green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, unpolished rice, whole cereals, dried legumes, nuts and fresh oranges in your daily diet so you can get your fill of folate.
For The Vegetarians: Four Vegetarian Foods That Help Big Time
Fenugreek: Fenugreek leaves help in blood formation and are also loaded with iron.
Almonds: These deliver a lot of copper (along with iron) that acts as a catalyst in the synthesis of haemoglobin.
Soak seven almonds in water for about two hours and grind them into a paste after removing the skin. Eat this paste every morning for three months. Or just chew the soaked, peeled almond very well.
Sesame seeds: Soak one teaspoon in warm water for a couple of hours, grind them and strain the juice. Add the juice to a cup of milk, sweeten with jaggery and have every day.
Honey: Honey helps build haemoglobin in the body. Thanks to the iron, copper, and manganese it delivers.
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).)
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