As much as we talk about Diabetes, Heart Diseases and Cancer, the discussions on many other adverse health conditions which damage overall health and affect quality of life is generally skipped. To quote a simple example, when somebody feels tired all the time or lacks energy, we simply attribute it to stress and being over-worked. How many of us are tuned to understand the language of our body? We talk about inflation, increasing taxes and the burden on the tiny little pocket of the common man! But, the only thing that even keeps out tiny little pocket healthy is our good health. Right?
The emphasis on good health is only limited to doling out advices like Eat well and Exercise enough. How does one describe what is a good eating habit? Books and Google will tell us to include greens, colored vegetables, fruits, etc. But does anybody think about making an informed dietary choice? This can only be done when you keep reviewing your health status time and again; and yes this ideally should not start in your 20s or 30s but even as kids. To cite a few published statistics, childhood stunting, anemia and obesity have been ranked to be the three highest burden conditions in India. Reports claim the child stunting rate in India to be 38.4% as per the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report, higher in comparison with Srilanka at 14.7% and China at 9.4%. In Anemia, a report published in early 2018, indicated the affected frequency among women to have risen to 54.3% in Delhi Vs.. 44.3% in the year 2005-06. A steep rise has also been recorded in the states of Punjab and Haryana. A total of 21 of the 36 States and UTs have more than 50% of the women affected by anemia.
The block in perceiving this as a life-altering situation is only because we are attuned to only following and believing what we see first, but hardly what we read. Anemia does not need family history or inheritability to occur as an exclusive. Though general health check-up and blood tests are increasingly becoming affordable, it the under the umbrella of needle scare or waiting for the symptoms to arrive wherein the majority hide. Yes, when we go to a local lab to get our blood tests done, we need to have that blood withdrawn. But it is time to learn that technology like a portable glucometer has also introduced the concept of non-invasive anemia screening tools meaning not requiring that needle prick and getting tested in your comfort zone. WHO even recognizes non-invasive hemoglobin screening as a key medical tool to improve global health. Moderate iron deficiency anemia can easily be treated with supplements and nutritional diet.
Another common misconception, that anemia is a condition of the women and children only stands untrue. Like breast cancer, even anemia can affect men, albeit the frequency reported is low. Diagnosing and treating anemia is important as it can eventually lead to adverse heart health. Not enough red blood cells, will push your heart to work harder even before the apparent symptoms arise. Dealing with anemia is as important as diabetes or any other lifestyle disorder, as the adversity has a cascading effect.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (the healthcare AAP) recommends anemia screening to be done between the ages of 9-12 months following then between ages 1-5 years of age for at risk category. Indian guidelines towards therapeutic approach recommends testing from 6 months to 60 months. Organizations like ASHAs and ANMs are involved in screening from 6 months to 5 years of age and also aid in corrective management through IFA syrup. There is so much to anemia and much more happening behind the scenes. Only because we do not see many media happenings around this condition, it remains equally forgotten!
It is time to not be scared, but be aware!