More often than not we come across the term hemoglobin in our lives. Whether we are getting a routine blood workup or getting ourselves checked for some ailment, we see the level of hemoglobin on our blood test reports or hear it from a medical professional. One might wonder about their importance in our body and what their varying level means.

What Is Hemoglobin?

Hemoglobin is an essential protein of circulation. It is mainly found in the red blood cells of our body. Hemoglobin is the protein molecule responsible for gaseous transport by our blood. It helps in carrying oxygen from the lungs to other parts of our body. It also carries Carbon dioxide from our tissues back to our lungs from where it is exhaled out of our body.

Why Do We Need Hemoglobin? 

Our body needs oxygen to survive. When we inhale oxygen, our blood carries it from our lungs to more oxygen-deficient parts of our body.

Our blood mainly consists of red blood cells for the transport of gasses. These red blood cells contain proteins known as hemoglobin. Oxygen mainly binds to these hemoglobin proteins. Each one of these proteins can transport four molecules of oxygen. These are then transported throughout our body for aerobic respiration and proper functioning. Our blood cells cannot transport oxygen without structurally sound and functioning hemoglobin in them.

 Hemoglobin not only helps out blood cells in their arduous task of carrying oxygen, but it also maintains their normal round oval disc-like shape. This shape helps them to flow through narrow capillaries without damaging their cell wall and disrupting their structures. Any abnormality in hemoglobin structure can cause damage to our red blood cells and their hemolysis, subsequently leading to anemia.

Effects Of Low Hemoglobin

Red blood cells in our body are constantly undergoing degradation. They have a life span of 120 days. As the red blood cells disintegrate, hemoglobin in them also gets degraded into protein parts and iron parts. This breakdown product of iron is converted to hemosiderin. Accumulation of this can cause hemosiderin staining which is a brown discoloration of our skin due to degradation of hemoglobin. Our body constantly replenishes our stores of hemoglobin, replacing the level we need for proper oxygenation. The amount of hemoglobin getting degraded is almost equal to the amount of hemoglobin produced daily.  If due to some genetic, dietary, or functional problem, hemoglobin turnover is not adequate, it can cause problems, such as anemia

What Is Anemia?

Low levels of hemoglobin in our blood are known as anemia. It can be either due to the inability of the body to form normal hemoglobin or lack of products needed to form hemoglobin. Our body needs iron to make hemoglobin. We need iron in proper supply to produce hemoglobin. We need only a small amount of iron in our daily diet because our body recycles the iron that is already present in the body.

Lack of iron due to any condition can lead to anemia. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of low hemoglobin.

There are several factors that can cause iron deficiency in our body such as:

  • Massive loss of blood due to trauma, by women on their monthly period, perforation, ulcers, cancer, or other conditions.
  • An iron-poor diet or inability of our body to absorb iron
  • The sudden increase in the need for iron by our body. This happens physiologically during pregnancy.

Low hemoglobin levels can cause a variety of symptoms like fatigue, lethargy, inadequate oxygenation, weakness, paleness, and inability to carry out strenuous exercise. 

Prevent Low Hemoglobin Level 

Many causes of low hemoglobin cannot be prevented by general measures. If you have the genetic inability to form normal hemoglobin, you may not benefit from improving your diet. Still, nutritional anemia can be prevented by taking some measures such as:

  • Taking iron-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, dry fruits, beef, and other meat.
  • Vitamin B12 and folic acid also play an important role in the formation of hemoglobin. You can replenish them by eating a good amount of meat and dairy. Folic acid is found in cereals and legumes.
  • Taking iron supplements and vitamins can help in preventing anemia, Especially in pregnant women. However, you should always consult your doctor before taking these supplements.

If anemia is caused by any other condition, It is treated by treating the underlying cause. Sometimes blood transfusion and medications can help with low hemoglobin levels.

Hemoglobin is an essential protein needed by our body to transport oxygen. Any problem leading to its deficiency can cause problems like deoxygenation, fatigue, weakness, inability to concentrate, chest pains, and shortness of breath. This is why you should have a proper amount of iron, folate, and vitamins which are necessary for hemoglobin synthesis.