Having anaemia means you have an abnormally low amount of haemoglobin in your blood. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around your body. Therefore, if you don’t have enough red blood cells, your heart will have to work harder to move these cells (and the oxygen they’re carrying) around your body at a faster rate. This extra workload can aggravate heart failure.
Anaemia has several causes. A common cause is chronic blood loss such as with bleeding from the gut. Chronic bleeding will also deplete the body’s iron stores and lead to an iron deficiency anaemia. The bone marrow produces red blood cells and conditions such as kidney failure, chronic inflammation or cancer treatment may reduce bone marrow production and may lead to anaemia. Other conditions, for example the presence of an artificial heart valve, can sometimes injure circulating red blood cells and cause anaemia.
Routine blood tests taken by the primary care physician include measurement of haemoglobin and will identify the need for further investigation. Once the cause of the anaemia is identified, appropriate treatment can be started.