What Is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition where there is an abnormally low number of red blood cells circulating in the body. It is the most common disorder of the red blood cells, affecting about 3.5 million Americans.
Anemia is not a disease. It is a condition that results from below-normal levels of hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Hemoglobin is the iron- containing pigment of the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. There are many different kinds of anemia, each with its own cause. For example, a poor diet can cause anemia. The more severe types of this condition are often inherited.
To understand why anemia occurs, it's important to understand the function of blood itself. Blood is a mixture of plasma (the fluid part of the blood) and cells. Its red color comes from the predominant cells found in the blood, called erythrocytes. A healthy person has about 5 million red cells in every cubic millimeter of blood. Each cell contains a protein (hemoglobin) that carries oxygen through the body. The process of creating and recycling red blood cells is exceptionally complex. Trouble can occur at any point in this process. If the red blood cells fail to effectively transport oxygen throughout the body, anemia can result.
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