A few months ago, I was diagnosed with jaundice, a condition in which the skin, whites of the eyes turn yellow because of a high level of bilirubin, a yellow-orange bile pigment in the human body. Being familiar with just one cause of jaundice, I thought it was Hepatitis A, which as per expectations should have been ceased by three weeks. It didn’t; besides, I began feeling a dull but numbing pain in my right lumbar region. Having visited a doctor, I was suggested to take CBC, Complete Blood Count, a type of test, to evaluate the cells that circulate in the blood, namely, Red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), and platelets (PLTs).
The examination not just informs about the condition of overall health but also could detect diseases related to blood, infections, and anemia to name a few. In my case, it was confirmed to be another cause, i-e Gallstone. The purpose of the narration is not to have a discussion over my illness but to talk about another issue that I was compelled to notice. My uncle, a doctor, while going through my report of CBC, pointed out an anomaly in my blood. THE DEFICIENCY OF IRON or Iron deficiency anemia (IDA). I was appalled to discover that I had been iron deficient for a long time. Here my uncle and his doctor wife added a strange bit to my knowledge. According to them, Iron deficiency has been one of the most widespread problems in women of Pakistan.
Women are the basic foundation of this country. If our women are not healthy the present and future of our country could never be healthy.
Dumbfounded, I was tempted to dig a little deeper and in next to no time the facts were dawned upon me. Countless Studies about anemia in women of Pakistan were all over the internet. According to those studies, IDA was the most prevalent anemia in women. A report by EMRO WHO, verifies the conclusions, stating that more than one-fifth of women in Pakistan suffer from anemia. Another study done by Khyber teaching hospital was successful in categorizing IDA with two peaks, one in 1-30 years, another in 41-50 years in women. In pregnant women, the prevalence of IDA was 90.5% out of which 75% had mild anemia 14.8% had moderate anemia and 0.7% were severely anemic. In Urban areas, it is reported as being 26% and 47% in rural areas. In another study, in young women, it was reported to be 30%-60% while in married women it was revealed 90%. Revelations indeed were not easy to stomach. In women normal blood level ranges from 11.6-15 grams/dL, in Pakistani women, however, it revolves around 8-9 grams/dL.
Iron deficiency anemia is believed to occur when our body doesn’t have enough iron to produce haemoglobin. Haemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that is responsible not just for giving the blood its red colour but also facilitates the transport of oxygenated blood throughout our body. The most common causes behind IDA could be;
- Heavy loss of blood due to heavy menstruation. In Pakistan, young girls more often than not put up with heavy menstruation but due to shyness and no regular health checkups (Practice of checkup without a visible cause is discouraged), keep them oblivious of IDA for a long time leading to complications in pregnancy and other natal issues.
- Lower consumption of iron; Body needs to get iron from the foods that we intake, unfortunately, in developing countries that level of iron intake is not that promising. Lack of resources adds to lack of knowledge, ensuing health hazards. Consuming less than the required amount for a long time could lead to IDA.
- Iron deficiency during pregnancy is highly prevalent. Although it could be controlled by supplements, continual pregnancies coupled with iron deficiency could exacerbate the problem.
For a long time, I had been experiencing some of the symptoms without any obvious medical condition what now I could relate to my illness, for instance, persistent weariness, chest pain, a prolonged state of melancholy and rapid heartbeat (Some professional had misinterpreted it with tachycardia). According to Mayo Clinic, Iron deficiency anemia may lead to heart issues, in severe cases to heart failure. In pregnant women, severe iron deficiency anemia could lead to premature birth or low birth weight babies. In infants and children, severe it can lead to anemia as well as delayed growth and development. Additionally, iron deficiency anemia is associated with increased susceptibility to infections.
WHAT COULD WE DO?
Adopting a nutritional diet loaded with Iron should be the priority of our population in general and of women in particular. Rich sources of iron could be obtained from fruits, vegetables, red meat, poultry, seafood, beans dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach (reminds me of poppey), dried fruit, such as raisins, and apricots, iron-fortified cereals, bread, pasta, peas, and whatnot. Besides, you should choose foods that contain vitamin c to boost iron absorption for instance drinking citrus juice vitamin c in citrus juices, like orange juice, helps the body to better absorb dietary iron. Vitamin c is also found in: broccoli, grapefruit, leafy greens, melons, oranges, peppers, strawberries, tangerines (In our local language we wrong it with orange), and tomatoes. Iron Supplements could also compensate for some of the food (If the issue is of availability and affordability).
When it comes to food such as meat or poultry, we could not avoid the fact that 29% of our population dwell below poverty. For those people, managing basic food is not possible let alone affording such high-cost provisions. Here, steps in the role of government. Although the government has been coming up with some of the best health programs for the poor, for instance, Sehat Card in Kp, women around the country continue to be overlooked.
To measure the severity of the issue and the approach to deal with it falls on the shoulders of the government. The government needs to launch relevant surveys to collect information on the prevalence and severity of anemia in various parts of the country; henceforth, results could be utilized by adopting a directed strategy to deal with anemia. Furthermore, the plans to prevent iron deficiency, founded on a multifaceted approach ranging from dietary improvement to iron supplementation could be made the part of National Health Services, tending to women and children’s needs. Here not just government but even NGOs working specifically for women could follow and even enhance their services. If not much, at least the availability of Ferrous Sulphate could be made easier for pregnant women.
In addition, an awareness program aiming to spread awareness about such issues needs to be approved. It’s the lack of awareness that our young women without any knowledge are suffering from IDA. They need to be educated about how their bodies function and the essential requirements to carry out those processes. Free medical camps should be conducted across the country not just to spread awareness but even be utilized to provide Ferrous Sulphate to pregnant women. Women are the building blocks of this country. If our women are not healthful, the present and future of our country could never be healthy.