General Question

Facade's avatar

Is there a way to build up endurance if I'm anemic?

Asked by Facade (22884points) June 6th, 2011

I’m trying to get in shape once and for all, but I can’t jog .25 of a mile without getting winded due to my hemoglobin being smaller than usual (anemia).
When I try to push myself, I end up gasping for breath. It’s pretty scary because I can’t breathe, and my upper back kind of spasms as well.

Is there any way to combat this? Do I just need to jog more?

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40 Answers

crisw's avatar

What are you doing to address the anemia?

Facade's avatar

@crisw It’s treatable??

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Facade What causes your anemia? There are various reasons for it. If you can identify why it’s occurring you can address it.

Facade's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe My hemoglobin are small, that’s all I know. It’s the one medical issue I haven’t bothered to look in to. I didn’t even know it could be treated…

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Facade Not enough iron in the diet is one possibilty. Some medicines also can cause it.

Facade's avatar

Well my iron levels are fine; doctors have checked them. And I don’t know if medicines have caused it because I’ve been this way since I was a child. I just remembered that I need to go get blood work done for my thyroid, and the physician also order a CBC, so perhaps she’ll be able to give me some information…

gailcalled's avatar

Treatments

Treatments for anemia depend on severity and cause.

Iron deficiency from nutritional causes is rare in non-menstruating adults (men and post-menopausal women). The diagnosis of iron deficiency mandates a search for potential sources of loss such as gastrointestinal bleeding from ulcers or colon cancer. Mild to moderate iron deficiency anemia is treated by oral iron supplementation with ferrous sulfate, ferrous fumarate, or ferrous gluconate.
When taking iron supplements, it is very common to experience stomach upset and/or darkening of the feces. The stomach upset can be alleviated by taking the iron with food; however, this decreases the amount of iron absorbed. Vitamin C aids in the body’s ability to absorb iron, so taking oral iron supplements with orange juice is of benefit.

Vitamin supplements given orally (folic acid) or subcutaneously (vitamin B-12) will replace specific deficiencies.
In anemia of chronic disease, anemia associated with chemotherapy, or anemia associated with renal disease, some clinicians prescribe recombinant erythropoietin, epoetin alfa, to stimulate red cell production.
In severe cases of anemia, or with ongoing blood loss, a blood transfusion may be necessary.
[edit]Blood transfusions

Doctors attempt to avoid blood transfusion in general, since multiple lines of evidence point to increased adverse patient clinical outcomes with more intensive transfusion strategies. The physiological principle that reduction of oxygen delivery associated with anemia leads to adverse clinical outcomes is balanced by the finding that transfusion does not necessarily mitigate these adverse clinical outcomes.

In severe, acute bleeding, transfusions of donated blood are often lifesaving. Improvements in battlefield casualty survival is attributable, at least in part, to the recent improvements in blood banking and transfusion techniques
needed]

Transfusion of the stable but anemic hospitalized patient has been the subject of numerous clinical trials.
Four randomized controlled clinical trials have been conducted to evaluate aggressive versus conservative transfusion strategies in critically ill patients. All four of these studies failed to find a benefit with more aggressive transfusion strategies.

Treatment of exceptional blood loss (anemia) is recognized as an indication for hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. The use of HBO is indicated when oxygen delivery to tissue is not sufficient in patients who cannot be transfused for medical or religious reasons. HBO may be used for medical reasons when threat of blood product incompatibility…”

gailcalled's avatar

My daughter is anemic and trying to eat beef again plus taking iron and vit. C supplements.

robmandu's avatar

@Facade, I think that you don’t have “anemia”.

WebMD explains that “Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells.”

The condition you’re describing with “small hemoglobin” is of a symptom that is typical of an iron deficiency anemia… and frequently diagnosed as such.

However, if your iron levels are not low – and ruling out the other 400 kinds of anemia – then you might have a genetic disease that simply makes your red blood cells smaller. The effect of this, as you noted, is that you’re not capable to strenuous protracted exercise, especially at altitude.

I have a family member who is currently being diagnosed with this condition… but the name of it escapes me. :-\

Mariah's avatar

I think if your doctor told you your hemoglobin is small, they meant the level of your hemoglobin count is small, not that the cells are small, unless you have sickle cell anemia or something similar. Eating a lot of iron rich foods and taking iron supplements will help with that.

crisw's avatar

I think you definitely need to have a chat with your doctor about exactly what your condition is.

cazzie's avatar

Is is this? I immediately thought of a type of thalassemia…..

Here’s a good web page. It is a rather complex disorder of the red blood cells: Excerpt:

Mild alpha-thalassemia. These patients have lost two alpha globin genes.They have small red cells and a mild anemia. These people are usually asymptomatic. Often, physicians mistakenly diagnose people with mild alpha-thalassemia as having iron deficiency anemia. Iron therapy, of course, does not correct the anemia.

http://sickle.bwh.harvard.edu/thalover.html

robmandu's avatar

@cazzie, that’s what I couldn’t remember the name of: Alpha-Thalassemia. Thanks!

And yah, if you’ve taken iron supplements in the past and your doctor noted no change in your condition, then this might be the next thing to consider.

The treatments to correct moderate to severe instances of the disease don’t sound like fun. :-\

cazzie's avatar

And as far as building yourself up, I would do gentle pilates and/or Yoga. Don’t try to jog. Your oxygen exchange in your body isn’t working like a normal persons, so don’t strain yourself and lower your immune system. The more red blood cells you over tax, the more will die, putting pressure on your spleen and liver, lowering your immune system, making you susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections that will make your over all condition worse.

Facade's avatar

@cazzie A previous doctor diagnosed me with thalassemia, and my mother has it as well. But, my most recent doctor said it’s not thalassemia, so I don’t know… But I can do brisk walking and plyometrics right? Those exercises leaft me out of breath as well, but for whatever reason, it’s not as bad as jogging or running.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I’d go and see your doc again.

cazzie's avatar

Get a definitive answer. It’s a genetic disease. If your mother has it and you are showing symptoms and your first doctor ran the right tests to confirm, you probably have it to, but make your current doctor do the tests if he’s doubting the previous diagnosis. There are tests that will prove it one way or another and you deserve to know.

Facade's avatar

Thanks everyone! I’m going to make another appointment with my doctor.

Rarebear's avatar

alpha-thalassemia is pretty common in African Americans.
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/206397-overview

Facade's avatar

@Rarebear I think that’s what my mom has. And, through clicking around in the link you posted, I found the term my newest doctor used– microcytic anemia.

On the Wikipedia page, it says that microcytic anemia can be caused by myeloma. My mom has cancerous cells for multiple myeloma; should I be worried about that?

Rarebear's avatar

I was just posting links for your own edification for when you go to the doctor you can learn a little what s/he is talking about. I can’t tell you whether or not to be worried about multiple myeloma except to say that it’s a very uncommon cause of anemia.

Rarebear's avatar

But the answer to your question is that you build up endurance like anybody else builds up endurance.

JLeslie's avatar

I was going to say Thalassemia also. You should see a hematologist.

When my iron is low I am weak and exhausted. After taking supplements for just a few weeks I can tell a huge difference. But, I do not have any genetic diseases. I am pretty sure my SIL takes iron for her thalassmenia though. And, get your B12 checked.

JLeslie's avatar

I just want to reiterate, see a hematologist before doing anything. Taking iron might be harmful depending on the diagnosis. Regular GP is not good enough in my opinion, no offense @Rarebear you know I love you. Some GP’s might be capable of this diagnosis, but you have no way to know for sure yours really knows what she is doing.

Facade's avatar

@JLeslie Thanks; I will

cazzie's avatar

@JLeslie good point, It sounds like shhe has a difficult genetic condition and should have been referred to a Specialist and if she hasn’t she should ask for a referral… or who ever it works in her country.

JLeslie's avatar

Thalassemia usually is not a very big health concern, the version of it that she probably has, if that is the correct diagnosis. No one in my husband’s family gets blood transfusions. However, if and when you eventually get pregnant, you would want to be followed closely. Folic Acid and Iron are important during pregnancy.

Getting your thyroid checked was a good idea also. My other recommendations are check vitamin D, B12, Folic Acid. And, you said your iron level was normal, get the number, male sure it is up in the middle of the normal range, and not down in the bottom of the normal range. In my experience as we get older we lose more and more vitamins and minerals, not sure if our absorption goes down? As far as the vitamin D, we tend to be in the sun much less once we start working. You look from your pics like you still go in the sun, but having very dark skin does protect you from burning, but it also blocks out D absorption, just like SPF in suntan lotion. But, my husband is darkish, and his D is fine, because he in the end goes in the sun much more than I do.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie I wasn’t trying to diagnose her. I was giving her information on thalassemia as she seemed to want to know about it. Nor was I suggesting any therapy (beyond exercise). You are correct in that iron can be dangerous if you don’t need it.

Facade's avatar

@JLeslie I avoid the sun like the plague lol! I’m actually very pale (for a black person) due to the “anemia” and the fact that I’m always inside. I can see the blue veins in my legs and arms… The sun stings my skin (like it does my mother) anyways… If the doctor can’t figure out what’s going on with the tests she’s already ordered, then I’ll suggest to her what you and others have told me.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Facade There is an exercise you can do to expand your lung capacity. Lying on your back, hold a weight bar out at arms length straight up. Slowly lower it over your head, keeping the arms straight. Touch the floor and then bring it back to straight over your chest. Do 10 or 15 reps and then repeat. It doesn’t need to be a heavy weight. It makes a big difference in lung capacity.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear I did not feel you were tryng to diagnose her at all. Only what you said, providing information. If it came across that way in what I said my apologies for how I worded things. I only meant that I did not want you to feel offended by my generalization about GP’s, I never meant you specificially. I think the information you provided was great, I was agreeing with it. I was just cautioning there is no way for @facade to know if her GP would really know to do all the tests necessary andnthe latest thoughts on whatever might be ailing her.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie I’m a family physician, not a general practitioner. Family physicians are specialists in primary care. Most family physicians can work up anemia without difficulty.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Honestly, I am unclear the difference in training and knowledge between a GP, Family Physician, and Internist. I have very bad luck with “primary care doctors.” Probaby my expectations or lack of understanding of their responosbilities is not correct. Or, maybe my problems have just truly needed specialists.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie Fair enough. Just be careful when you write stuff like this: “Regular GP is not good enough in my opinion” Your experience in primary care physicians may be colored by bad experiences, but that’s not generalizable. You could equally say that going to a specialist like a hematologist would result in a boatload of unnecessary tests and stress.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Possible for sure. Specialists sometimes go overboard. My experience with Hematology was not like that though. I am only going on my own experience of course.

cazzie's avatar

Where I come from ‘Family Practitioner’ and GP is the same.. so I don’t get the difference either.

Rarebear's avatar

@cazzie In the American medical system a GP is someone who has a year of internship training and then goes out to practice. A family physician is someone who goes through an intensive three year residency in inpatient and outpatient medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics becoming a specialist in primary care problems of all patient groups. A general internist is someone who goes through a three year residency of just adult medicine. Sometimes the term “GP” is used as a generic term to talk about your primary doctor whether or not they’re FM or IM trained, but it’s a lay term, not a medical term and generally not descriptive of the physician’s actual training.

In the British medical system (Britian, Canada, Australia, etc.) the training is a bit different, although the Canadian medical system is more like the American medical system in terms of residency training. Hope that helps clear up the confusion.

Workup of anemia generally does not require a hematologist as most anemias can be accurately diagnosed with a few relatively simple blood tests.

JLeslie's avatar

@rarebear So I guess maybe I should seek out an Internist? Although, I noticed my cardiologst has internal medicine listed also, does that mean she can act as my internist?

What regular things do you check during a check up, assuming their is no complaints by the patient.

Rarebear's avatar

Cardiologists are internists who have gone through a cardiology fellowship. Whether she can act as your internist is really up to her. Usually specialists won’t act as primary care physicians.

In terms of regular things to check during a check up, it really depends on the patient and it’s individualized.

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