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Anemia is a bloody nightmare

Growing up, my mother was very protective and very strict. She had rules about everything; from what outfits I was allowed to wear, to what movies I could watch, to what my diet was.

During my younger years, I resented her health-conscious attitude. I would enviously watch my friends devouring their lunches of burgers, sodas and fries, while I chomped away on my “cucumber on rye sandwiches” and “apple chips.” Our typical family dinners usually ended in arguments over what exactly qualified as a serving of vegetables.

When grade 12 came to an end, I had the opportunity to move across the country, a chance at freedom and a new life far, far away from my mother – so I took it. Two months into this whole new life, I was nearly hospitalized for a blood transfusion. I had become severely anemic to the point I was operating 30 per cent lower than the average human being.

Anemia is a lack of red blood cells, or hemoglobin, meaning your body is not getting enough oxygen.

Anemia is usually due to a lack of iron or folic acid. Nowadays, iron deficiency anemia is extremely common, especially for women. About two out of 10 women in Canada are anemic because of iron deficiency. Some common symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, paleness, hair loss and difficulty concentrating.

After this episode, I had to avoid movement as much as possible and take heavy iron doses to recover.

All of this happened in a matter of two months. Two months of being on my own, of being able to choose what I wanted to eat, of being able to drink, of being free from a curfew.

Freedom is not doing whatever tickles your fancy, going about it carelessly and ruthlessly; true freedom is doing what you’ve got to do, while putting your own personal spin on things.

If you see university as an opportunity to do everything, to eat everything and to drink everything you could not at home, you will only be doing yourself harm.

Associated with the privileges of living on your own, there are responsibilities and obligations. You have to take care of yourself. If you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you have to learn how.

In residence, I found it difficult to eat enough iron and protein due to some questionable-looking meats. If you are not already taking one, adding a daily multivitamin to your diet is a quick way to add nutrients.

But always remember that vitamins don’t substitute for food.

Also, look to add in yummy iron rich foods. Livers, mussels and clams are the highest sources. If that’s too much to ask, beef, poultry and seafood are also good sources. Other iron rich foods, though not as easily absorbed, include spinach, broccoli, asparagus, beans, peas, molasses, seeds, nuts, dried fruits, eggs, enriched cereals, barley and oats.

Increasing your iron and protein intake can be as easy as eating an egg with breakfast, throwing some nuts into your cereal, or adding beans or peas to salads, pastas and rice. Eat your iron rich foods with vitamin C – it will enhance the absorption.

Have you heard the saying, “You are only as good as your health?” It is true. Good health enables you to think better, to feel better, and it generally makes life easier.

A university lifestyle of beer, pizza, caffeine, binging and skipping meals is not healthy. We’re all starving students, barely scraping by, but your health should not be seen as a financial burden, it is a necessity.

Your health is something you have to constantly be working on and aware of.

Developing poor health does not occur drastically. I didn’t even realize I was sick, but it took two months to lose my health and almost three years to regain it.

If you do think you have any symptoms of anemia or want to learn more about anemia, visit Dal Health or your regular doctor.

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