Hemoglobin is abbreviated as 'Hb' and is a protein in the blood. More specifically, it is found in the red blood cells that contain millions of hemoglobin molecules.
What does hemoglobin do?
Hemoglobin gives the blood a red color but also has a much more important function. It ensures that oxygen is transported from the lungs to the rest of the body and takes the waste carbon dioxide back to the lungs where it is exhaled.
How is hemoglobin measured?
The amount of hemoglobin in the blood is easy to measure by taking a drop of blood via a prick in the finger. This drop is then transferred to a measuring device that can measure the hemoglobin level. It is recommended to consult your doctor for a complete blood test.
There is a difference between the normal value of hemoglobin in men and women. The normal level is higher in men with normal values between 8.5 and 11 millimoles per liter, while in women this is between 7.5 and 10 millimoles per liter. At around thirty weeks of pregnancy, pregnant women still have a level of approximately 6.5 millimoles per liter.
Low hemoglobin level
When the blood contains too low a quantity of hemoglobin, we speak of anemia. The blood then carries too little oxygen to the brain. Common symptoms include dizziness, palpitations, headache, feeling faint, tiredness, and shortness of breath on exertion. Low hemoglobin can be due to iron deficiency, folic acid deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, prolonged blood loss, or underlying conditions such as gastrointestinal and kidney disease.
Hemoglobin level too high
A too high hemoglobin level is less common. In chronic smokers and people who live at high altitudes, an increase is noticeable because they absorb more carbon dioxide and therefore signal the brain to make more red blood cells. A problematically elevated level of hemoglobin can be caused by a rare gene mutation in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. Another cause is lung diseases that make it more difficult to pass oxygen to the red blood cells, so that more red blood cells are produced again. The danger of too high a hemoglobin level is that it causes the blood to thicken. As a result, blood clots can form.
The relationship between donating blood and hemoglobin levels
When donating blood, the level of hemoglobin drops. It is therefore recommended to wait a period of 2 months between each donation and to check the hemoglobin level in the blood before each donation. This is easy to measure with a finger prick. In order to be allowed to donate blood, a lower limit of 8.4 millimoles per liter for men and 7.8 millimoles per liter for women is taken into account.