OverviewCausesSymptomsDiagnosisTreatment

For some people, there is no way to prevent anemia; it is an inherited trait, like sickle cell disease. They can manage it, at best. For most, though, it is possible to avoid anemia by eating right and getting a variety of vitamins and minerals like iron, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin C.

For inherited anemias such as sickle cell, it’s essential to see a genetic counselor before deciding to have children. It will provide prospective parents with insight into the condition, an idea of what possible treatments are available, and their reproductive options. 

FAQ

What foods help prevent anemia?

The key to preventing some types of anemia, such as iron deficiency, is to eat right. That means eating plenty of foods high in iron and essential vitamins such as green, leafy vegetables, tofu, lean red meat, lentils, and beans. People should look for iron-fortified foods, as well, such as breakfast cereals and bread.  

The focus is often on vitamin C foods, too. The reason? Vitamin C can help improve iron absorption. In fact, one study indicates that 100 mg of vitamin C enhances iron absorption by 67 percent. Vitamin C-rich foods include fruits, especially citrus, but also strawberries, kiwi, and blackberries. 

Drinking water will aid in the absorption of these nutrients. In addition to drinking more water, it may be necessary to limit or avoid other beverages. For example, drinking tea or coffee while eating can deter absorption. 

While diet is the best way to get the nutrients necessary to prevent some types of anemias, dietary supplements might help, as well. Anyone taking prescription medication should talk to their doctor before starting on nutritional supplements, though. After all, they may affect how the body absorbs certain medications. 

What is the best way to treat anemia?

Treatment depends on the type of anemia. For iron deficiency anemia, supplemental iron tablets and dietary changes may help. Also, it’s important to determine if there is an underlying cause for the anemia, such as bleeding in the digestive tract. Resolving the underlying problem will resolve the anemia, as well. 

For vitamin deficiency anemias, changes in the diet and adding supplements are the standard treatments. Some individuals whose bodies have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 may require regular B12 shots. The shots may be necessary just for a few months or on a long-term basis. Some require B12 for life. 

For anemias associated with a chronic illness, treatment focuses on the underlying disease. It might be necessary to treat the anemia if severe with a blood transfusion or synthetic erythropoietin, which is a protein made by the kidneys. It stimulates red blood cell production and may help ease the side effects of the anemia. 

A care plan for sickle cell disease focuses on the symptoms and comfort level of the patient. There is no specific treatment for this condition. That being said, there is some success with the cancer drug hydroxyurea (Droxia, Hydrea), though, 

Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately. To see our full medical disclaimer, visit our Terms of Use page.


More about Anemia

Written by

Medically reviewed by