Ladies, Check Your Iron

28 Jan

220[1]Ladies, if you’re experiencing excessive or unusual fatigue and lack of energy, low iron could be the cause.

This one hits a little close to home.

First, some history:  My youngest daughter is a junior basketball player at our local high school.  After getting off to a pretty good start, last (2014) AAU season, she seemed to “run out of gas” toward the end of the season (mid-summer).  I attributed it to long high school and AAU seasons, and figured she just needed a break.

During the fall (2014) season, my daughter seemed to lack her usual energy.  Although she rarely complains about anything, she talked with me about “feeling tired all the time.”  Historically, she has always had very good cardiovascular endurance, and is very fast.  She seemed to lack her usual energy, speed, and quickness.  As the fall season progressed, she also experienced shortness of breath during her games, which led to a diagnosis of exercise-induced asthma, and a prescription for an inhaler.  The inhaler helped her feel a little better, but didn’t change much regarding her energy level, based on her feelings and my observation.

Fast forward to the high school season:  My daughter continued to use her inhaler, but also continued to describe a feeling of constant fatigue.  She has started and played big minutes, and helped her team to a pretty good season, so far.  Still, I know my kid, and she has not played with her usual energy, all season.

Finally, last Monday, my daughter had a blood test (something we should have done months ago), and the results were shocking:

  • Hemoglobin (transports oxygen in the blood) = 7.7 (normal range = 12-16)
  • Iron (carries oxygen to the tissue) count = 13 (normal range = 30-140)
  • Ferritin (stores iron in the tissue) level = 3.7 (normal range = 9-150)

Clinically, she has been diagnosed with what her physician thinks is probably iron-deficiency anemia (her other blood test parameters were normal).  Her physician is astounded that she can function with any semblance of normalcy (in the physician’s words, “stand up without falling down”), let alone play basketball.

My daughter has started taking an iron supplement and, although her diet is pretty good, she will also increase her consumption of iron-rich foods (e.g., red meat; pork, poultry; seafood; beans; dark leafy green vegetables, such as spinach; dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots; iron-fortified cereals, breads, and pastas).  There are no medical limitations or restrictions on her activity, and she can continue to do everything she has been doing.  Her condition is probably also responsible for her shortness of breath and, once her iron level is normalized (which will take a few weeks), the need for an inhaler will probably be alleviated.  As her blood levels of hemoglobin, iron, and ferritin increase, her energy and endurance should return, as well.

I post this blog as a public service and — hopefully — as a way to increase education and awareness, especially since we train hundreds of female athletes and fitness clients.  If you or someone you know are experiencing excessive or unusual fatigue and lack of energy, please talk with your physician or encourage them to do the same.


Your thoughts?


2 Responses to “Ladies, Check Your Iron”

  1. Ginny Dashiell January 29, 2015 at 12:49 AM #

    Wow! I’m surprised she could function! And those poor young girls suffer from their monthly visitor too! I’ll be curious to see what her recheck numbers are!

    • Brian Lebo January 29, 2015 at 6:00 AM #

      Same here… hopeful that increasing iron, over time, corrects the situation.

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