The Call-On-Doc Guide to Anemia

Published on Mar 02, 2023 | 5:03 PM

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Anemia is a medical condition characterized by a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood, leading to reduced oxygen-carrying capacity and often resulting in fatigue, weakness, and paleness. Common causes include iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, and chronic diseases.

Why learn about anemia?

Feeling tired daily? You're not alone, with 28% of Americans reporting feeling sleepy five to seven days per week in a sleep study by the National Sleep Foundation. While it's easy to brush that aside as a sign of adulthood, lethargy or a lack of energy throughout the day can sometimes be your body trying to tell you something. If you relate to this but get a good amount of sleep, you might want to consider getting tested for anemia with Call-On-Doc. While we don't provide complete testing for anemia, we do offer complete blood count (CBC) testing that is required in the process of diagnosis and treatment. 

We understand that there might be some hesitation before getting tested for anything. That’s why we’ve put together this article to act as a guide for those unfamiliar with anemia. Here we go over the following:

  • Anemia definition: Is anemia a serious thing?
  • Anemia symptoms: What happens to a person with anemia?
  • Anemia causes: What causes anemia in women vs. men?
  • Anemia types: How do you know what type of anemia you have?
  • Seeking help: When should I see a doctor for Anemia?
  • Anemia treatment: How do doctors treat anemia?
  • Anemia prevention: How can I prevent anemia at home?

Is anemia a serious thing?

Anemia is a blood condition, also referred to as a lack of blood or low hemoglobin, where the affected person lacks red blood cells or functional red blood cells. While the thought of having it might make you nervous, don’t worry, as it's fairly common. According to the American Association of Hematology, over 3 million Americans are affected and living with anemia. 

In those 3 million cases, the condition comes in a diversity of forms and range of severity. On a case-by-case basis, the symptoms can vary, leading to health complications or the development of far worse conditions if left unchecked. So whether you’re debating a test for anemia or something else, here are some symptoms to be aware of. 

What happens to a person with anemia?

Anemia symptoms that develop highly depend on the type and severity of your case. Many of those with anemia do not even feel it or are aware until a doctor points it out. However, those that do have noticeable symptoms definitely feel them, with the most common including:

  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Dizzy spells/vertigo
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Recurring headaches
  • Regular fatigue
  • Skin discoloration

As the most common indication of anemia is fatigue, it’s entirely understandable to ignore it in the beginning. In minor cases, changes you can make to your current lifestyle can counteract the anemia and allow you to feel better to boot. Here are some recommendations we suggest to combat fatigue and feel better on a daily basis. 

Cut back on alcohol/salt/sugar/weed: We understand, there is a grand difference between alcohol and weed versus salt and sugar. However, all four have an effect on how your body runs on a daily basis. Consuming a little of any can make a workout a slog or an assignment a drag. If you have to consume alcohol or weed, do so in moderation. We’ve found leaving them to the weekend offers the best success for those needing to focus on a 9 to 5 job. 

Salt and sugar, on the other hand, are in EVERYTHING. Salt can slow you down if too much is consumed, while sugar can lead to a crash after a temporary rush. You don’t have to do anything massive to manage either, but we do recommend paying attention to the nutrition facts of regular snacks and foods you enjoy. If there’s too much of either in something, start looking for alternatives. 

Enjoy hot drinks and snacks: Often, there are two problems surrounding people that have low energy levels throughout the day. Either their stomach is empty and a bother or their current diet is providing just shy of the amount of nutrients needed. Your stomach can just as easily become your best friend as it can be a bother. Studies have shown that drinks like noncaffeinated teas and warm water wake up a person needing a slight boost due to a person’s system needing to circulate in order to adjust the temperature of the incoming drink. Similarly, your body will need to work to digest a snack while also adding to the nutrients absorbed on a daily basis. 

Exercise regularly: Regular exercise has an entirely possible effect on the body by allowing it to work more efficiently and build energy for the day-to-day grind. You don’t necessarily need to workout like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but taking the time to walk every day or get your heartbeat up will provide you with a noticeable boost when done regularly. Furthermore, even minor things like walking when you’re tired when you work at a desk all day allow your body to boost your energy and stave off fatigue. 

Focus on hydration: Water is exceedingly important to not only stay hydrated but to help produce hemoglobin for the blood and keep your body circulating at a healthy rate. If you’ve ever played a sport, you’ve probably got it into your head that over a gallon a day keeps cramps away. It turns out that has a bit more science to it, with the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommending 3.7 liters (roughly one gallon) for men and 2.7 liters for women be consumed throughout the day. While you can drink more, and should if you are active, think of that as a good place to start. 

Manage stress: Simply put, chronic stress puts a strain on the heart and mind. It is indeed true that you can have reduced performance just as much from mental exhaustion as physical. Consider finding healthy ways to cut back on stress and find appropriate times to relax when you can. Whereas we understand that totally avoiding stress is impossible, we also can say things like taking a walk, yoga, writing down your thoughts, enjoying a quiet environment, and more have had successful results in reducing stress. 

Make a sleep schedule: Don’t just schedule your alarm to wake up, set it to go to bed too. Getting the proper seven to nine hours of sleep allows your brain to recharge and your body to naturally heal from the normal strains that come throughout the day. While it might be a challenge at first, getting enough sleep is a proven way to feel better on a regular basis. 

Reduce caffeine: Caffeine can just as much be a gift to the world as a curse. On the one hand, it definitely can wake you up and keep you awake temporarily. However, it is also a stimulant that can raise your heart rate, blood pressure, and there is a debate that it reduces your effectiveness in absorbing nutrients. While we don’t recommend cutting it off completely, cutting your caffeine intake down to a healthy margin can allow your body to trigger energy production when you need it. 

If exhaustion persists despite applying these tips and living life to healthy standards, you should consider testing and medical attention. This conclusion can be confirmed especially for those that are active when workouts feel unusually challenging and you experience physical weakness. Those with paler skin may also see it turn yellow, a sign that your body needs more assistance than most people can manage independently. 

What causes anemia in women vs. men?

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Your Guide to Anemia, the causes of the blood disorder have entirely to do with your red blood cells. Whereas they are known to be the carriers of hemoglobin and make circulating oxygen throughout the body possible, the number of red blood cells is reduced when anemia develops. Whereas the blood disorder can cause several issues, the causes primarily surround reasons like:

  • Inadequate red blood cell production
  • Loss of too many red blood cells
  • Destruction of red blood cells by the body

Each cause varies on a case-by-case basis, but each originates from anemia inherited genetically from the parents or developed at any point in a person’s life. Here are some of the most common causes for each reason above. 

Causes of Anemia

Inadequate Production

Loss of

Destruction of

  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Cancer
  • Chemical/toxin consumption
  • High red blood cell demand
  • Infections
  • Lack of iron in the diet
  • Parasites
  • Pregnancy
  • Radiation
  • Some infections
  • Blood vessel burst
  • Cancer
  • Childbirth
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Exterior/body damages
  • Heavier menstrual bleeding
  • Internal bleeding
  • Irregular nosebleeds
  • Ulcers
  • Disease
  • Genetic abnormality
  • Hostile immune system
  • Lack of certain enzymes
  • Inability to absorb certain nutrients
  • Infection

According to the Office of Women’s Health, women can be more prone to certain types of anemia. As will be mentioned in the section below, blood conditions like iron deficiency anemia add to the difficulty of menstrual cycles and pregnancy. 

By comparison, the same blood condition is rarer in men, as reported by Live Strong. Most men who do have it report feeling none of the symptoms, while those who have either experienced blood loss or subsist on a diet without meat. 

In most other examples of anemia, each type is equal between men and women. Here are some of the best-known examples of anemia at the time of writing.  

How do I know what type of anemia I have?

Anemia and Pregnancy: According to the American Society of Hematology, a minor to standard case of anemia is normal for pregnant women. This is due to the amount of additional blood produced in the body during pregnancy, causing the need for an adjusted diet, especially in the second and third trimesters. If ignored or left untreated, the baby could be at risk of pre-term birth or a low-birth weight. Furthermore, the mother would also be at increased risk for additional blood loss and infection. 

Anemia caused by diseases: Unfortunately, some diseases feature anemia as a symptom or a potential development. Such diseases are generally identified by joint inflammation, organ disturbance, tissue damage, immune system vulnerability, blood vessels bursting, and reduction of blood circulation. Some examples include:

  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis

Anemia can occur when a person is suffering from diseases or conditions that affect the blood or inflammation. Diseases like the flu and the common cold rarely come with anemia despite sharing some symptoms. Either way, getting checked out or tested when the symptoms persist is important to your long-term health and prevents serious complications down the line.

Aplastic Anemia: A rare blood disorder, aplastic anemia occurs when your bone marrow cannot produce enough red blood cells to support normal bodily function. Also known as bone marrow failure, the condition leads to long-lasting infections, easy bleeding/bruising, and leads to serious health conditions like heart failure if not treated. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, aplastic anemia is closely associated with leukemia. Not because one directly leads to the other but because the chemotherapy used to cure the cancer can create the right conditions for aplastic anemia. While it can also be inherited, such cases are rare. 

Hemolytic Anemia: According to John Hopkins, hemolytic anemia is a condition where hemolysis occurs in the body. Hemolysis occurs when the body destroys red blood cells faster than they can be made. The blood condition can result from a number of causes like bone marrow failure, autoimmune reactions, negative reactions to medications, infections, and complications from blood transfusions. Children of parents of sickle cell or similar conditions run a risk as well. 

Iron Deficiency Anemia: Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia among the many people that have it. It can occur from blood loss or a poor diet, but it may also indicate that your body cannot absorb iron as effectively. Also common in pregnant women, patients will often have access to a wide range of fixes, including anything from dietary changes, vitamins, blood infusions, and more. 

Pernicious Anemia: A condition resulting from your gastrointestinal tract being unable to absorb vitamin B12. While in the past it was believed to be fatal, the blood condition is now easily treatable by your local doctor. Left untreated, it may cause damage to the nerves and heart. 

Sickle Cell Anemia: A number of blood disorders that cause a person’s red blood cells to be malformed and move through the body less effectively before dying earlier than normal red blood cells. According to the CDC, sickle cell anemia patients inherit it, with each parent passing on a gene for abnormal hemoglobin. While there is no cure for sickle cell anemia yet, it is important to have regular doctor visits and pay attention to lifestyle habits that might also contribute. 

Thalassemia: Passed on from the parents, thalassemia is a form of anemia that occurs due to the body generating less hemoglobin than needed. According to the CDC, the condition is referred to as alpha thalassemia or beta thalassemia on a spectrum of traits, minor intermedia, or major. Whereas the carrier may not notice those with trait thalassemia, those with major cases will need regular medical visits. Those with noticeable cases find out pretty early on, with it being largely genetic to those from many countries worldwide. 

When should I see a doctor for Anemia?

Anemia left untreated can be problematic. While in many cases, people with anemia will not notice symptoms, it can affect your daily life and leave you vulnerable to long-term health and more serious complications.

You should consider testing when getting enough sleep and keeping a healthy diet is not enough to curb daily fatigue. Unusual physical weakness in the face of daily activities and shortness of breath are more urgent signs that you should consider testing. 

How do doctors treat anemia?

With the guidance of a licensed doctor, treatment for most cases of anemia will typically be an adjustment of lifestyle. Since most cases are typically born from an inadequate diet or a stressed lifestyle, solutions will typically look like:

  • A change in diet 
  • Regular vitamin consumption
  • Added focus on sleep/exercise 

Changes in diet will generally gear towards an anemic person consuming solid sources of iron like meats, greens, and beans. Additionally, those foods will be supported by foods that help the body absorb vitamins, like melons, peppers, strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, and the like. In essence, the change in diet and lifestyle is designed to reorient the body towards being the healthiest environment possible for red blood cells. 

More severe cases may require complex solutions to cure the condition or make it manageable. For example, aplastic anemia can be cured by a bone marrow transplant. While certainly intimidating, modern medicine has made anemia something we can all deal with and still live life to the fullest. 

How can I prevent anemia at home?

With a diet that features normal levels of iron, B12, vitamin C, and other common vitamins, you should be able to avoid anemia. In normal people with healthy lifestyles, the blood condition rarely shows up until an advanced age or upon dealing with cancer. Even then, anemia has become more than manageable with foods like meat, chicken eggs, grains, fruit, and greens. Anemia can be a genetic complication that may be unavoidable, however, early detection can help create a manageable day-to-day healthy lifestyle.


  1. National Sleep Foundation. (2020, 03). Americans Feel Sleepy 3 Days a Week, With Impacts on Activities, Mood & Acuity. TheNSF. From https://www.thensf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/SIA-2020-Report.pdf
  2. American Society of Hematology. Anemia - Hematology.org. From https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/anemia
  3. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2011, September). Your Guide to Anemia. nhlbi.nih.gov. From https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/blood/anemia-inbrief_yg.pdf
  4. Office of Women's Health, Luksenburg, H., Sekhar, D., & Garrison, C. (2016, 03 14). Iron-deficiency Anemia. Womenshealth.gov. From https://owh-wh-d9-dev.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/documents/fact-sheet-iron-deficiency-anemia.pdf
  5. Boyers, L., & Simmons, D. (2019, 05 22). Iron Deficiency and Anemia in Men | Livestrong. Livestrong. From https://www.livestrong.com/article/347227-iron-deficiency-anemia-in-men/
  6. American Society of Hematology. Anemia and Pregnancy. Hematology.org. From https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/anemia/pregnancy
  7. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2022, March 24). Anemia - Aplastic Anemia. NHLBI. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/anemia/aplastic-anemia
  8. Hemolytic Anemia. Johns Hopkins Medicine. From https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/hemolytic-anemia
  9. CDC. (2022, August 18). What is Sickle Cell Disease? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From https://www.cdc.gov/sickle-cell/index.html

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Wayne C. Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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