What is Anaemia?
Anaemia happens when the level of red blood cells or the level of haemoglobin is lower than normal, hence a reduced amount of oxygen is being carried around in the bloodstream. Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common type of anaemia caused by insufficient iron in the body to produce haemoglobin.
“Iron deficiency anaemia is a condition that many are unaware they are suffering from,” said Dr. Zulfitri ‘Azuan Mat Daud, Assistant Honorary Secretary & Council Member of the Malaysian Dieticians Association. “Many of its symptoms are ignored, not because people deny having anaemia, but because people generally do not know about it, or for that matter, know too little about it! We are so used to leading hectic lives and feeling tired that we often take these signs lightly. Not many think to have themselves checked by medical professionals, and the condition can often persist for years,” he explained.
What are the risks?
- impaired physical and cognitive development
- poor pregnancy outcomes
- increased risk of morbidity in children
- reduced work productivity in adults.
- It should be noted as well that iron deficiency anaemia contributes to 20% of all maternal deaths worldwide , and is a major concern for developing countries.
What are the symptoms?
- dizzy, lethargic or weak
- frequent headaches
- having a tingling or crawling feeling in the legs
- strange cravings to eat non-food items such as dirt, ice or clay
- cold hands and feet; tongue swelling or soreness
- brittle nails and pale skin.
- If left untreated, iron deficiency anaemia can lead to irregular heartbeat, and in severe cases, lead to heart failure or an enlarged heart .
Iron deficiency anaemia is a real condition that many are probably unaware they are suffering from or maybe some just don’t find it to be a serious issue. If left untreated, it may become severe enough to affect our daily life. I know this as I have a few colleagues with anaemia and I have witnessed them suddenly fainting in the middle of work. Merck wants to raise awareness on this issue, and believes that many Malaysians will be able to benefit from understanding iron deficiency better and also understand the proper steps to take to begin living life as normal.
Officiating the launch of the Stand Strong Against Anaemia and Win Your Day campaign, (from left) Mr. Richard Lee, General Manager of Merck Consumer Health Division, Malaysia; Dr. Zulfitri ‘Azuan Mat Daud, invited speaker from the Malaysian Dieticians Association (MDA); and Dr. Dhara Shah, Associate Director of Medical Affairs, Merck Consumer Health Division.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that over 30% of the world’s population suffers from anaemia, with the disease being most prevalent in women and young children.
In Malaysia, of the 5,184 adults tested by Merck Consumer Health Division, approximately 39% of Malaysian adults are living with anaemia – 42% of 3,676 adult females, and 31% of 1,508 adult males.
Why are there more women than men experience anaemia? Mainly due to Pregnancy, significant menstrual bleeding and uterine fibroids which are all reasons that contribute to more women experiencing iron deficiency anaemia than men. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), an estimate of 20% of women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anaemia . This is backed by a study carried out in Peninsular Malaysia, reporting that 25% among all women aged 18 to 60 years old are affected by the sickness . Pregnant women are even more likely to experience iron deficiency anaemia because they require greater amounts of blood to support their growing babies.
Considering these alarming figures, it is a good news to consumers that Merck Consumer Health Division is leading the change in raising awareness on iron deficiency anaemia through their “Win Your Day” campaign.
“Through raising awareness on the issue, we believe that Malaysians will benefit from a better understanding of iron deficiency, and to take the necessary steps to begin living extraordinary lives. It is our intention to guide them in taking the initiative to seek opinions from healthcare professionals. When iron deficiency anaemia is not treated, it may become severe enough to affect our daily life. Hence, we want to help Malaysian women win their days and to experience more fulfilling lives in the long run,” said Dr. Dhara Shah, Associate Director of Medical Affairs, Merck Consumer Health Division.
Advising based on his expertise, Dr. Zulfitri highlighted that dietary and nutritional management is vital in treating this deficiency. To improve one’s level of iron in the body, one should increase absorbable iron in her diet through the consumption of meat, fish or poultry during main meals. “One way to increase your body’s absorption of iron is to include Vitamin C at every meal. Also, decreasing the consumption of tea, coffee and milk during main ls helps too, as they act as inhibitors of iron absorption in food.” he explained.
Dr. Zulfitri further highlighted that oral iron supplements helps the body in overcoming this deficiency. He emphasized that the supplements are best absorbed by the body on an empty stomach. However, if there is any irritation or uneasiness, it should then be taken with meals.
As in the case of (right) Nor Amni Bt Haris, 31, and (centre) Siti Noorshella Zainal, 37, their daily duties and chores struggled prior to discovery of their ailment. Both ladies improved on their dietary habits and took iron supplements upon professional advise, and their health condition has since been improved.
Nor Amni, a career lady who often skipped meals, only found out of her ailment after being sent to the doctor by colleagues after a dizzy spell at work. A change in dietary habits, along with taking iron supplements advise by her doctor, she is now able to manage her iron levels. She highlighted that working professionals, young adults or even school students should be aware of iron deficiency anaemia as it affects their productivity at work or school.
Siti Noorshella, a mother of 3, discovered her ailment during one of her pregnancies. In nursing and caring for her children, she found out more about the deficiency could potentially impact them as well. Improving on her dietary habits and taking iron supplements has helped her personal life, as well as her children. Beyond adults, she advises parents to also check on their children of this ailment as it is prevalent in pre-schoolers.
Merck Product Manager, Zoe Tan (right) demonstrating how the interactive Anaemia Risk Assessment Tool work to (centre) Dr. Zulfitri ‘Azuan Mat Daud, invited speaker from the Malaysian Dieticians Association, and (left) blogger Sherry Siok Sim.
Should the Anaemia Risk Assessment Tool and Conjunctival Paleness Chart point towards an afflication with iron deficiency anaemia, one should consult a doctor for further advise and undergo a blood test.
To combat iron deficiency anaemia, one must be proactive in taking steps in preventing it and to seek help from healthcare professionals when necessary.
Blogger Misz-Ella (in grey) tries out the interactive Anaemia Risk Assessment Tool, which was developed by the Merck medical team in Indonesia together with medical experts to help one identify if they are at risk of anaemia.
The benefits to finding iron deficiency anaemia treatment are substantial in restoring personal health and winning your days to experience a more fulfilling live.
Check out www.WinYourDay.my for more information on how can one detect and treat iron deficiency anaemia.
In conjunction with the ‘Win Your Day’ awareness campaign, Merck is organizing complimentary haemoglobin tests at selected pharmacies nationwide. For more information on the complimentary haemoglobin tests, and to do an initial self-check using the interactive Anaemia Risk Assessment Tool and Conjunctival Paleness Chart, visit www.WinYourDay.my.