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Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate amounts of oxygen. Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

Types of Anemia

  1. Iron deficiency anemia. It results from a shortage of iron in your body. Your bone marrow needs iron to make hemoglobin, the protein that gives blood its red color and that enables blood cells to transport oxygen. Iron deficiency anemia is often caused by blood loss, such as from heavy menstrual bleeding or an ulcer.
  2. Vitamin deficiency anemias. Your body also needs folate and vitamin B-12 to make healthy red blood cells. A diet lacking in these and other key nutrients can decrease red blood cell production.
  3. Anemia of chronic disease. Some chronic diseases — such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, and other chronic inflammatory diseases — can interfere with the production of red blood cells.
  4. Hemolytic anemias. This type of anemia results when red blood cells are destroyed faster than bone marrow can replace them.
  5. Sickle cell anemia. This inherited anemia is caused by a defective form of hemoglobin that forces red blood cells to assume an abnormal crescent (sickle) shape.




Pale skin

A fast or irregular heartbeat

Shortness of breath 

Chest pain


Cognitive problems

Cold hands and feet



Blood tests that check the number of red blood cells in your blood and their size, shape, and color are used to diagnose anemia.

Treatment depends on the cause. Iron deficiency anemia, for example, is often treated with iron supplements and a change in diet. If the underlying cause of the iron deficiency is the loss of blood — other than from menstruation — the source of the bleeding must be located and stopped.

Other forms of anemia may be treated with specific dietary supplements, blood transfusions to boost levels of red blood cells, or a bone marrow transplant. For some uncommon anemias, such as hemolytic anemias and sickle cell anemia, medications may be used.


  • Iron. Iron-rich foods include beef and other meats, beans, lentils, iron-fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, and dried fruit.
  • Folate. This nutrient is found in citrus fruits and juices, bananas, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and fortified bread and cereals.
  • Vitamin B-12. It’s found naturally in meat and dairy products. It’s also added to some cereals and soy products.
  • Vitamin C. Foods containing vitamin C — such as citrus fruits, melons, and berries — help increase iron absorption.

Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.

Tests to consider

Supplements to consider