Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that helps cells in the body receive oxygen. Hemoglobin in the blood transports oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and organs for use. Oxygen is released, allowing aerobic respiration, and fuels the organism's metabolic functions.
A complete blood count will allow you to read your hemoglobin level accurately. Normal levels of hemoglobin for men are 13.5–17.5 grammes per deciliter (g/dL), and for women, it is 12–15.5 g/dL. Please note: the standard values are subject to variation from one laboratory to another.
A high hemoglobin count indicates that your blood contains a more-than-average amount of oxygen-carrying molecules. Hemoglobin assists in transporting oxygen (O2) from the lungs to the rest of the body and removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the lungs. Polycythemia is another term for a high hemoglobin level.
What Are Normal Hemoglobin Levels?
Normal, healthy levels of hemoglobin are as follows:
Hemoglobin level, in grams per deciliter (g/dL)
Adult females (pregnant)
Children's healthy level ranges depend on their age and gender. In addition, healthy hemoglobin ranges vary by different medical norms of countries and regions.
What Are The Causes Of High Hemoglobin?
Some lifestyle factors and rare disorders can cause a high hemoglobin count. Some of these are:
- Polycythemia vera: A rare blood illness often characterized by a high hemoglobin level due to an excessive accumulation of red blood cells.
- Smoking: The body's requirement for additional oxygen rises while smoking, boosting the body's red blood cell count.
- Dehydration: Diarrhea, dehydration, and other health issues can cause an increase in hemoglobin levels in the blood.
- Hypoxia: Poor lung or heart performance causes low blood oxygen levels, thus boosting red blood cell production.
- Living in mountainous areas: Your hemoglobin count may be greater than usual if you reside in the highlands or at high elevations.
- Unnecessary use of Erythropoietin (EPO): EPO promotes red blood cell formation. EPO is used to improve physical performance at a high level.
These medical problems can cause a high hemoglobin level:
- Chronically low levels of oxygen
- Cardiac disease
- Renal disease
- Liver/kidney cancer
Symptoms of high hemoglobin levels
If your hemoglobin count is higher than usual, you may encounter the following symptoms:
- Sweating excessively
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Freezing hands and feet
- Eyes or skin that appear yellow (adult jaundice)
- Experiencing difficulty breathing
- Chest pains
- Abnormal weight loss
- Rash with a purple hue
Tests Required For High Hemoglobin Levels
- Hemoglobin is usually checked as part of a standard blood test called a "blood count" (CBC) test. Automated machines use chemically-treated blood samples to remove hemoglobin from RBCs.
- The hemoglobin A1c test shows how much sugar is attached to hemoglobin as blood sugar levels rise.
Do High Hemoglobin Levels Bring Any Risks?
Various health conditions can result in high hemoglobin levels. Having a high hemoglobin level comes with its share of risks, especially if left unchecked or undetected for a longer period. Some of these are:
- Polycythemia, a rare blood disease
- Blood clotting
- Heart attacks
- Hypochromic anemia
- Kidney and liver cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 1 diabetes
Treatment Options Available For High Hemoglobin Levels
Treatment Options for a high hemoglobin level rely on the underlying cause. Additionally, you may require different treatments for your high hemoglobin level.
- Medications: A physician may prescribe medicines for high hemoglobin. Treatment focuses on what caused your hemoglobin count to increase.
- Phlebotomy: In this procedure, the doctor removes blood with needles or syringes. The technique may be repeated based on the patient's hemoglobin level.
When to See a Doctor?
If your blood tests reveal any anomalies, you must schedule a follow-up consultation with a doctor as soon as possible to get treatment for the underlying medical condition to treat high hemoglobin effectively.
How Can You Prevent High Hemoglobin Levels?
Hemoglobin levels might fluctuate for a variety of reasons. However, lifestyle improvements can reverse these problems. Some of the things that you can do are:
- Avoid the use of performance-enhancing medications
- Avoid multivitamins that contain iron
- Eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables
- Increase your water intake
- Quit smoking
1. What happens if hemoglobin levels are too high?
In the absence of additional anomalies, a high hemoglobin level is unlikely to signify a serious condition. However, this can result in clots, leading to heart attacks and strokes. If treatment is not obtained timely, it is a condition that can become severe and also life-threatening.
2. How do you manage high hemoglobin levels?
The treatment for high hemoglobin levels depends on the underlying conditions that led to it. Apart from that, some lifestyle changes, like drinking plenty of water, quitting smoking, and stopping the consumption of iron-containing multivitamins, can also help. For immediate relief, the doctor might suggest removing some blood from the patient's body with the help of a needle or syringe.
3. Is a high hemoglobin level something to worry about?
A small hemoglobin variation is normal. However, high hemoglobin levels should be taken seriously since it may indicate an even more serious condition. Even if there is no underlying illness, treating a high hemoglobin count is essential. A high hemoglobin can thicken the blood and could cause blood clots which can create multiple, life-threatening complications.
4. Can stress affect hemoglobin levels?
Both increased and decreased hemoglobin levels were observed in those with more severe stress. Hence, we can say that stress is directly associated with hemoglobin levels in the human body. It is advised to exercise regularly and stay happy to avoid unnecessary stress.
5. What foods should be avoided when hemoglobin levels are high?
- Oxalate-rich foods include beans, berries, and greens
- Purine-rich alcohol, meats, and seafood
- Overconsumption of sugar
- Dietary fat
- Processed foods
- Deep-fried foods
6. What should I expect if my doctor identifies a high hemoglobin count?
High hemoglobin levels mean your body has an excess of iron-rich protein that carries oxygen to different body parts. Once the doctor identifies a high hemoglobin count in your body, they might try to figure out the underlying condition behind it to address the core issues. The doctor may also advise you to consume more water, quit smoking, and avoid iron-rich multivitamins.
7. How long does it take for hemoglobin levels to decrease?
The liver, spleen, bone marrow, and muscles all contain proteins. If iron stores are reduced and not replaced by diet, hemoglobin levels may drop. After 6 to 12 weeks, the majority of patients' hemoglobin levels return to normal.
8. How quickly can levels of hemoglobin rise?
After starting the right supplements and diet, it may take from 4 to 6 weeks for hemoglobin levels to increase. Include iron-rich food in the diet, including spinach, lentils, broccoli, and dark chocolate, among others.