Normal Hemoglobin Levels

Hemoglobin is an intricate protein which resides within red blood cells containing an iron molecule. The molecule of iron helps maintain the normal shape of red blood cells. Hemoglobin’s main and important function is to carry oxygen to body tissues from the lungs as well as allow for gas exchange, during which oxygen is replaced with carbon dioxide. The hemoglobin then carries the carbon dioxide back to the lungs, where it is once again exchanged for oxygen and being expelled via exhalation. As you may be able to ascertain, having the right amount of hemoglobin in your blood is extremely important. But what are normal ranges of hemoglobin levels? Continue reading to find out.

What are Normal Hemoglobin Levels?

Factors such as gender and age determine the normal levels of hemoglobin for an individual. Whilst some healthcare professionals consider the right level to be different for individual patients, the range of value is generally close, only varying by about 0.5 d/dl.

Normal hemoglobin values (by age and gender):

  • Birth: 13.5 – 24 gm/dL
  • <1 month: 10 – 20 gm/dL
  • 1-2 months: 10 – 18 gm/dL
  • 2-6 months: 9.5 – 14 gm/dL
  • 0.5 to 2 years: 10.5 – 13.5 gm/dL
  • 2 to 6 years: 11.5 – 13.5 gm/dL
  • 6 to 12 years: 11.5 – 15.5 gm/dL
  • Males aged 12-18 years: 13 – 16 gm/dL
  • Females aged 12-18 years: 12 – 16 gm/dL
  • Males >18 years: 13.6 – 17.7 gm/dL
  • Females >18 years: 12.1 – 15.1 gm/dL
  • Men after middle age: 12.4 – 14.9 gm/dL
  • Women after middle age: 11.7 – 13.9 gm/dL

What Do Abnormal Hemoglobin Levels Indicate?

While you may be worried if you do not have normal levels of hemoglobin, it is important to know what high and low hemoglobin levels can be an indication of.

High Hemoglobin Levels

This often occurs in smokers, and at high altitudes. Dehydration can also cause high hemoglobin levels, which often return to normal once rehydrated. Extreme physical exercise, excessive vomiting, and burnscan also cause this occurrence. Other less common causes for high levels of hemoglobin include:

  • Tumors
  • Bone marrow disorders
  • Advanced lung diseases (such as emphysema)
  • Erythropoietin (Epogen) abuse by athletes when blood doping

What to do:

  1. Quit smoking. Smocking increases hemoglobin levels by lowering the account of oxygen delivered to body tissues, causing the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
  2. Keep hydrated. Dehydration can increase hemoglobin levels by 15%. Choose drinks without caffeine, especially water, to help lower your hemoglobin levels.
  3. Live somewhere with a lower altitude. High altitude reduces the amount of oxygen in the air, resulting in the body producing more red blood cells in order to maintain oxygen levels. 
  4. Consider phlebotomy. Similar to blood donation, phlebotomy enables red blood cells to be removed from your body to bring down hemoglobin levels. Consult your doctor about whether this procedure is appropriate for your situation. 
  5. Get a chest x-ray. Lung conditions cause a lack of oxygen in your body, which in turn leads to more production of red blood cells and increased hemoglobin levels.  A chest x-ray can help diagnose the issue and allow your doctor to treat the underlying disease correspondingly.

Low Hemoglobin Levels

If your results show low levels of hemoglobin, then you would likely be diagnosed with anemia. This could be caused by numerous instancesincluding:

  • Blood lossdue to an injury or trauma
  • Iron, vitamin B12, or folate deficiencies
  • Bone marrow problems
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Kidney failure and other kidney problems
  • Liver diseases
  • Chemotherapy drugs causing suppression of the synthesis of red blood cells
  • Abnormal structure of hemoglobin (such as sickle cell anemia)
  • Thalassemia (a genetic disorder which causes lower levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin to be produced)

Women who are pregnant are at a higher risk of stillbirths if their hemoglobin levels are too high; or miscarriage if they are too low. For this reason, those who are pregnant should try to maintain normal hemoglobin levels.

Click HERE  to learn how to increase hemoglobin levels.

How Are Hemoglobin Levels Measured?

Routine blood tests often check levels of hemoglobin as part of the complete blood count (CBC). Once blood sample has been taken from a patient, it is placed within an automated machine which extracts the hemoglobin from the blood via chemical treatment. The hemoglobin being released then becomes chemically bound to cyanide, forming a light-absorbent compound. This is then measured to determine how much hemoglobin is present within your blood.

When Is a Test Ordered?

The test is generally ordered when an individual experiences symptoms pertaining to red blood cell conditions, such as polycythemia or anemia. Symptoms for polycythemia include:

  • Dizziness
  • Impaired vision
  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Spleen enlargement

Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Depletion of energy
  • Paleness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting

The test is generally carried out more than once when a patient has been diagnosed with chronic polycythemia, anemia, or similar conditionsto determine how effective the treatment is, and to see whether normal hemoglobin levels are restored. Those with cancer that affects bone marrow may also be offered this test.

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