Hemoglobin

by Carol Gomes

Hemoglobin is the red colored protein that gives red blood cells its red color. It is a very vital constituent of blood because it helps carry oxygen in the blood and transports it to all the cells in the body. Hemoglobin is made up of two main protein components known as alpha and beta. Both of these proteins are together required to pick up and transport oxygen and then release it in the cells.

The normal hemoglobin levels are different in men and women. In a healthy adult male, the normal hemoglobin levels range from 13.8 to 17.2 gm/dL, whereas in healthy adult females, the normal hemoglobin levels range from 12.1 to 15.1 gm/dL. These are the accepted normal ranges for hemoglobin. However, different labs may have slightly different ranges and may offer you different test results.

Testing Hemoglobin


Doctors often recommend tests to check your hemoglobin levels as that is an important yardstick to estimate a person’s health. A hemoglobin test may also be recommended when a person is suspected of having anemia, a condition in which the human body does not have enough hemoglobin to transport oxygen normally. Hemoglobin levels are almost always tested as a part of the complete blood count.

An abnormally low hemoglobin count may indicate a blood disease, bleeding, leukemia, over-hydration, malnutrition, and immune disorders that cause destruction of red blood cells. An abnormally high hemoglobin count may indicate congenital heart disease, dehydration, low oxygen levels in the blood, erythrocytosis, and pulmonary fibrosis.

Hemoglobin test is just like any other blood test. A blood sample is collected using a sterilized syringe. The blood is then sent to a laboratory to be tested. You will have a puncture wound and the syringe may pinch or hurt you a little.

Hemoglobin and Diabetes


Hemoglobin tests may also be useful to check for diabetes and how well a person is able to control their sugar levels. Excessive glucose levels in the body react with the hemoglobin, resulting in glycated hemoglobin. The amount of glycated hemoglobin in your blood is an indication of how well you have been able to control your blood sugar levels in the past few months. The test usually indicates sugar control over the past 3 months.

HbA1C levels that are less than 5.6% are considered normal. The levels can also be used to diagnose diabetes. If you have HbA1c levels between 5.7% and 6.4%, it is considered to be pre-diabetes. In case your HbA1c levels are higher than 6.5%, you are considered diabetic. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will discuss the ideal HbA1c levels with you. In most cases, the ideal levels should be 6.5% to 7%.

Anemia


If you have less than the normal levels of hemoglobin, you suffer from a condition known as anemia. Some people may have abnormal hemoglobin, which also decreases the amount of oxygen available in the body. Sickle cell anemia is one such condition in which the hemoglobin is sickle-shaped and is not able to transport oxygen very efficiently.

Some people have two different types of hemoglobin, known as hemoglobin A and hemoglobin C. Those who have the hemoglobin C trait may pass it on to their children. Such children may be more susceptible to developing sickle cell anemia. They may be born with the condition or may develop it later in their life.

Doctors recommend eating foods rich in iron for treating deficiency of hemoglobin. Since iron is a major constituent of the protein required for the synthesis of hemoglobin, eating iron rich foods can replete the hemoglobin levels.

If you suspect that you may be anemic, speak with your doctor.

References:

  1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003645.htm
  2. http://sickle.bwh.harvard.edu/hemoglobin.html
  3. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003640.htm
  4. http://www.slh.wisc.edu/newborn/brochures/b1print.pdf

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