Hemoglobin is one of the most important indicators of blood. From the school biology course, we know that the role of hemoglobin is in the transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide. And hemoglobin also contains iron. Remember how our mothers and grandmothers strongly recommended us to eat “iron” apples as a child. And all this as part of the fight against hemoglobin deficiency. By the way, the benefits of apples in this matter are slightly exaggerated, but more on that later. Hemoglobin is one of the most well-studied proteins. And so we have a lot to tell about him. Let’s find out what hemoglobin is for, why its amount can be higher or lower than normal, and how to deal with it.
The structure of hemoglobin
Hemoglobin is a complex protein. Even the word “hemoglobin”, if you look closely, is complex. It consists of two parts – globin (the protein component) and heme (the non-protein part of the molecule).
If we consider hemoglobin in terms of popularity, then this is a real classic of the genre. Open any tutorial in the “proteins” section. In 99 cases out of 100, an example of the quaternary structure of a protein will be the hemoglobin molecule. And next to the picture of this plan:
The composition of hemoglobin includes four heme molecules, each of which is literally wrapped in a protein chain. There is one iron atom inside the heme. This structure is the pigment that colors the blood in the usual color. It is due to hemoglobin that our blood is red.
Iron in hemoglobin is divalent. I would not like to complicate the article with chemistry, but this is an important point, which we will return to later.
Hemoglobin in the red blood cell is quite a lot. About 400 million molecules in a single cell. It occupies almost 95% of the dry residue of the red blood cell.
Hemoglobin synthesis occurs in the liver, bone marrow, intestines, and kidneys. Iron plays an important role in this process. Part of it is reused by the body. That is, when hemoglobin breaks down, most of the iron remains in the body and goes to build new hemoglobin molecules. A little iron enters the body with food. Thus, this macronutrient is updated.
People are interested – is it possible to saturate the body with iron for the future? No, even if you take drugs with a high iron content, its excess leaves the body. With a normal metabolism, we can not turn into an iron man.
Iron is deposited in the form of a special protein-ferritin. In the composition of this compound, it is trivalent. In order to turn it into a divalent form, which, as we remember, is part of hemoglobin, certain conditions are necessary. Namely, the presence of such catalysts as vitamin C and vitamins of group B. Without these substances, the absorption of iron in the intestine will be very difficult.
At the end of its life span (approximately 120 days), hemoglobin breaks down into its components. The heme loses iron, turns green, and then turns into yellow bilirubin. Bilirubin is part of the bile, and when there is a lot of it, it gives symptoms of jaundice. One of the signs of mass breakdown of hemoglobin is jaundice of the skin and sclera of the eyes.
Surely, you have paid attention to how the color of the hematoma (bruise) changes with a bruise. First it’s red, then it’s blue. These are signs of inflammation. And then there is a different color scheme-from green to brown. This is just a clear example of the breakdown of hemoglobin and the transformation of its components into bilirubin.
It’s time to figure out what the hemoglobin in our body is for. Of course, the main task of hemoglobin is gas exchange. But it is not only engaged in the transport of vital gases. Let’s talk about everything in order.
So, the functions of hemoglobin:
Transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide
Everything is as we were taught in childhood – hemoglobin is saturated with oxygen and carries it through the arteries to organs and tissues. And on the way back, it takes carbon dioxide and returns it to the lungs. There are, of course, nuances. Hemoglobin takes almost all the oxygen received in the lungs. And it carries back a maximum of 20% of carbon dioxide. All the rest of the carbon dioxide is dissolved in the blood plasma and reaches the lungs in an unbound state. So in terms of oxygen transport, the role of hemoglobin is more significant.
Maintaining the acid-base balance of the blood
In order for our blood, and the whole body as a whole, to perform its functions, it is important to maintain a constant PH. Hemoglobin removes acidic compounds from the cells, preventing their acidification. And in the lungs, on the contrary, it prevents latching. Thus, hemoglobin acts as a buffer.
When the PH is shifted to the acidic side, the immune system is primarily affected. The synthesis of immune cells is disrupted, and the immune response slows down. Clinically, this is manifested by frequent infectious diseases. Although, it would seem, what does a low level of hemoglobin have to do with constant colds, for example.
Binding of toxic substances
A number of toxic substances have a high affinity for bivalent iron. Carbon monoxide, prussic acid, aniline, hydrogen sulfide, nitrobenzene, and other compounds bind strongly to hemoglobin iron. This somewhat reduces the toxic load on the body.
For this help of hemoglobin, we pay a fairly high price. Strong compounds do not allow to saturate the hemoglobin with oxygen and the body experiences hypoxia. So on the one hand, hemoglobin, of course, limits the contact of our organs and tissues with toxins. On the other hand, he cannot perform his ” direct duties”, and our health still suffers.
Types of hemoglobin
It is possible to distinguish physiological (normal) and pathological hemoglobin.
In the medical literature and documentation, including in blood tests, hemoglobin is usually designated by the Latin letters Hb (haemoglobinum).
To indicate a particular type of hemoglobin, one or more Latin letters are added to the letters Hb. They define either a chemical compound that has reacted with hemoglobin, or they are the capital letter of a word that reveals the essence of the substance. It’s not really that complicated. Now you will see this.
HbA (adult-adult) is a “mature” hemoglobin that everyone has, including young children. At birth, it is about 80%, and then the amount of HbA increases to 95-98%.
HBF (fetus) – fetal hemoglobin, which is produced from the 8th week of embryonic development until birth. It differs from HbA by a large affinity for oxygen, which is quite justified. After all, the baby must take vital oxygen from the mother’s blood.
HbP or HBe (embrion-embryo) – this type of hemoglobin does not function for long. Up to about 8 weeks of prenatal development. It is also called primitive hemoglobin.
Depending on what substances hemoglobin has attached to itself, the following types of hemoglobin are distinguished:
HbO2-compound with oxygen;
HbCO2-a compound with carbon dioxide;
HbMet – hemoglobin, combined with a strong oxidant, and changed the valence of iron to trivalent. Normally, this hemoglobin should not be more than 3%.
Currently, more than 300 types of pathological hemoglobin are known. It may differ from the normal one both in the structure of the protein component, and in the presence of toxins that have joined it. Previously, scientists called each type of hemoglobin by the letters of the Latin alphabet. For example, HbS is the hemoglobin of sickle cell anemia. But then they realized that there were so many pathological compounds that no letters would be enough, and they began to name them according to a different principle. For example, HbCO-carbhemoglobin (a compound with carbon monoxide), and so on.
There is a lot to say about the structure and functions of hemoglobin. We will leave the details to scientists, and move on to more applied things – what level of hemoglobin is considered the norm and what its changes in the greater or lesser direction indicate.
Blood test for hemoglobin
A few words about the blood test for hemoglobin. There is nothing particularly complicated here. Determining the level of hemoglobin is included in the general blood test. Capillary blood is taken from the finger. Blood should be given on an empty stomach. The day before, exclude physical loading. Adults are advised not to drink water. For small children, you can make an exception. That, in fact, is all.
The norm of hemoglobin in adults and children
The baby is born with a high level of hemoglobin. Then it gradually decreases. The norm of hemoglobin in children under one year is much higher than the norm of an adult. This is due to the active growth of the body, which requires high oxygen consumption.
In adults, the norm of hemoglobin is considered to be:
For women 120-140 g/l
For men 130-160 g/l
Usually, the age of a person is not taken into account in the assessment. Although, WHO recommends taking this indicator into account. After all, the norm of hemoglobin in women of reproductive age is somewhat different from that of women in menopause, for example.
Here is the norm of hemoglobin by age, in the form of a table:
The norm of hemoglobin in pregnant women is slightly lower-110 g/l. During pregnancy, hemoglobin decreases for quite objective reasons. A woman gives part of her iron to a child.
WHO standards do not take into account some of the characteristics of residents of high-altitude areas. The higher the altitude, the less oxygen there is in the air. Accordingly, compensation mechanisms are triggered. The body produces more hemoglobin in order to cover the lack of oxygen.
In mountaineers, the norm of hemoglobin is higher by 35-45 g/l. That is, the level of hemoglobin may well be 200 g / l, which is considered a pathology for the inhabitants of the plain.
The average concentration of hemoglobin in the red blood cell
The average concentration of hemoglobin in the red blood cell is indicated by the abbreviation MCHC (Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration). This indicator characterizes the saturation of red blood cells with hemoglobin. It is stable, and in adults it does not depend on age, gender, or other parameters.
The average concentration of hemoglobin in the red blood cell is normally 34 g / dl. This value can vary within two units.
A decrease in this indicator indicates the presence of anemia, but an increase is extremely rare. The fact is that at a concentration of 37 g/dl, hemoglobin is insoluble in water, and therefore in blood plasma, and forms crystals. An increase in the average concentration of hemoglobin in the red blood cell indicates that you need to re-pass the test. Most likely, an error occurred.
So, we have figured out the norm of important parameters of hemoglobin. It would be nice to know what the deviations from the norm are associated with and what are the symptoms of these conditions.
Causes of low hemoglobin in the blood
- Blood loss, including during menstruation
- Violation of iron absorption in the intestine
- Infectious diseases
- Oncological diseases
- Poor food ration
- Heavy physical labor
- Old age
- Fluid retention in the body. It turns out that the blood plasma becomes more, and the number of red blood cells remains the same. Against this background, the amount of hemoglobin in a liter of blood volume decreases.
Thus, it can be seen that women are more likely to suffer from low hemoglobin levels. They have two physiological reasons for this – menstruation and pregnancy.
Signs of low hemoglobin
- Fatigue, drowsiness, apathy
- Pallor of the skin, sometimes jaundice
- Cold hands and feet
- Brittle nails
- Enlargement of the spleen and liver
- Changing the color of the chair
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Frequent infectious diseases
Interesting fact. A sign of low hemoglobin is, oddly enough, the desire to eat chalk, inhale exhaust gases, kerosene and other liquids with a specific smell. The reason for this phenomenon is not completely clear. But for such people, they even came up with a special food chalk.
Causes of increased hemoglobin in the blood
- Temperature rise
- Dehydration of the body
- Heart failure
- Blood diseases
- Oxygen deficiency
It is generally believed that a low level of hemoglobin is a threat to health. But there is little good in increased hemoglobin. When the level of hemoglobin is 20 g / l higher than normal, the risk of thrombosis, heart attack, stroke, kidney and pancreatic disorders increases sharply.
Symptoms of high hemoglobin
- Drowsiness, lethargy
- Visual impairment
- Numbness of the limbs
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Blood in the stool
- Itchy skin
How to increase hemoglobin
How to quickly increase hemoglobin in the blood? Everyone has their own understanding of the word “fast”. Someone imagines a week-long treatment, and someone wants to take a pill that would instantly saturate the blood with hemoglobin. Unfortunately, not everything is so simple. Standard treatment involves 2-3 months at least. It all depends on how pronounced the deficit is.
It is believed that if after 2 weeks of treatment, the hemoglobin levels are 2% higher than the previous ones, then this is a fairly good result. That is, if you initially had 100 g/l of hemoglobin, and after 2 weeks it became 102 g / l – this is good. And this is far from the norm.
A blood transfusion with low hemoglobin is the only way to quickly fix the situation. But this procedure is not so simple and safe, and is carried out only in acute deficiency.
To gradually increase the level of hemoglobin, iron preparations are used. They can be administered intravenously, or they can be taken as tablets. Both the dosage and the route of administration will be determined by the doctor. By the way, do not rush to take iron supplements yourself. First, it is necessary to determine the cause of the decrease in hemoglobin. And to do this, pass an examination and pass at least a test for ferritin. Maybe it’s not about the hardware. You will saturate the body with iron, and the reason lies in the violation of the synthesis of hemoglobin.
A few words about iron. The daily requirement for this macronutrient is 1-2 mg. With one caveat – iron will be removed from the body naturally – through urine, sweat, skin epithelium and hair. With heavy menstruation, iron loss is 2-4 mg per day. In this case, it is very desirable to take iron supplements at least a week a month, doubling the dosage.
As for the products for increasing hemoglobin in the blood, then here you have a wide choice – there are both plant and animal foods containing iron.
Plant-based products for increasing hemoglobin
- Fruits and berries – apples, cranberries, mountain ash, strawberries, strawberries, kiwis, black currants, pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, apricots, blueberries, red grapes. You can make juices from them. Red grape wine increases hemoglobin quite well. It contains iron, plus alcohol stimulates blood formation.
- Vegetables – beets, carrots, peppers, broccoli, corn, legumes. You can make mixes-juices from apples, beets, carrots and lemon. Lemon is needed as a source of ascorbic acid, which, as we remember, accelerates the absorption of iron.
- Nuts – walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts.
- Dried fruits – raisins, dried apricots, figs, prunes.
- Decoctions of herbs – St. John’s wort, clover, rosehip, blackberry leaves.
Animal products for increasing hemoglobin
- Red meat (especially beef and veal), beef liver, chicken and rabbit.
- Hematogen. It is not for nothing that we have included this sweet toffee in the list of animal products for increasing hemoglobin. It contains the animal protein albumin, which contains well-digested iron and vitamins. This food supplement has become quite popular and is very popular with children.
If you want to effectively saturate the body with iron, then do not take these products together with milk and dairy products. Calcium slows down the absorption of iron in the intestine. Coffee and tea are also better replaced with rosehip.
And, of course, do not forget about the useful vitamins – C, B12 and folic acid.
How wonderful, you say – so many products! And many of them we eat almost every day. Why does our hemoglobin continue to decline stubbornly? All this is due to the bioavailability of iron. After all, there is a serious difference between how much we have eaten and how much is left in our body.
What is the point of iron in the same apples, if only 6% is absorbed? In addition, some varieties of apples contain very little iron, which, with such low bioavailability, is equivalent to taking tap water. There is generally the entire periodic table, and iron salts in the same number.
The bioavailability of iron in meat is about 20%. That’s not bad. In addition, this iron is heme, divalent. That is, in order to take its place in hemoglobin, it does not need to transform from trivalent. By the way, since childhood, we have been recommended beef liver as a ” top ” product in terms of iron content. This is not quite true. In ordinary red meat, there is much more of it.
In general, in order to increase hemoglobin in the blood, we need iron supplements and the right foods. It is better to give preference to meat.
How to lower hemoglobin?
To reduce hemoglobin, it is recommended to limit the use of products containing iron. The appropriateness of this advice remains in question. We have already said that with a normal metabolism, the body will not take more iron than it needs. In principle, you can replace red meat with white, and in general replace vegetables. The only question is, will it help to reduce high hemoglobin?
The only thing in which there is a rational grain, so it is in the recommendation of the exclusion of alcoholic beverages from the diet. It is absolutely not necessary to stimulate hematopoiesis with already high hemoglobin.
The most common cause of high hemoglobin is dehydration. What should I do? – of course, saturate the body with liquid. In simple terms, drink more. Although, in some situations, special antiplatelet drugs are prescribed.
Of course, first of all, it is necessary to deal with the cause of the high level of red blood cells. This problem does not occur spontaneously, and is a consequence of any disease.
Keep an eye on your hemoglobin levels and stay healthy!
Answers to questions about hemoglobin can be found here