Heavy periods can pose health risks
For women with heavy periods, that “time of the month” is not only uncomfortable, but a recent study shows that it may also be impacting your overall health.
A group of 236 women at a hospital in Finland received treatment to decrease the heavy bleeding during their period. Prior to treatment, 27 percent of these women were anemic and 60 percent had severe iron deficiency. Just eight percent of the women with anemia were taking iron supplements.
One year after treatment, the red blood cell count had increased to non-anemic levels for the women, but for those who were iron deficient prior to treatment, their hemoglobin, an iron-filled protein, was still much lower. It took five years for their iron levels to return to normal.
Researchers also found that after treatment, women who were anemic had increased energy, physical and social functioning and decreased anxiety and depression compared to women who were not anemic prior to treatment.
“Our findings suggest that clinicians should screen for anemia in women with heavy menstrual bleeding and recommend early iron supplementation as part of the treatment process,” said Dr. Pirkko Peuranpää, lead study researcher in a statement.
It is important for all women, but especially women with heavy periods, to recognize the signs that they may be anemic. Signs of anemia include fatigue, rapid heartbeat and feeling short of breath with activity, dizziness, headache and pale skin, according to Dr. Gloria Kim, an obstetrician gynecologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. Anemia caused by an iron deficiency can also lead to cracks in the corner of the mouth, sore tongue and cravings for non-food substances such as paper, ice and dirt.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your physician so you can be tested for anemia and receive appropriate treatment, Dr. Kim says.
“Iron is a key part of making red blood cells and when you lose blood, you lose iron,” she says. “Women who have heavy periods can end up losing a lot of iron. Unless they make it up by eating iron rich foods or taking iron supplements the body will be unable to make normal red blood cells and the women will become anemic.”
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