Hemoglobin is the iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein molecule found in the red blood cells. Hemoglobin plays a significant role in health as it carries the oxygen from the lungs, through the bloodstream, to feed all of the living cells. On the way back from the peripheral tissues, hemoglobin carries the waste product of metabolic exchange, carbon dioxide, to the lungs where it is released in the process of exhalation.
Hemoglobin is usually measured as a part of the complete blood count from a blood sample. Even though the red blood cells count may be normal in one individual, the hemoglobin levels may be elevated or lowered. Several methods exist for measuring hemoglobin, and it is usually done automatically by complex medical equipment.
Low hemoglobin levels
Hemoglobin deficiency is caused by decreased amount of hemoglobin molecules, or decreased ability of molecules to bind oxygen. If this is the case, the blood oxygen-carrying capacity severely decreases. Decrease of hemoglobin leads to symptoms of anemia. Low hemoglobin count may be associated with certain health conditions such as aplastic anemia, cancer, cirrhosis, Hodgkin’s disease, hypothyroidism, iron deficiency, kidney disease, leukemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or vitamin deficiency anemia. A low hemoglobin count can also be due to blood loss, especially in menstruating women, blood donators, or patients with internal bleedings or wounds.
Elevated hemoglobin levels
High hemoglobin levels, on the other hand, may be caused by exposure to high altitudes, smoking, dehydration, or tumors. People living at high altitudes normally develop higher hemoglobin levels to substitute the deficient quantity of oxygen in the air. Dehydration, on the other hand, causes just temporary changes in hemoglobin levels and the normal levels are quickly restored after the body is been re-hydrated. Certain lung diseases may also elevate the hemoglobin count in the blood by destruction of healthy exchange mechanism in the lungs. Normally, blood is picking up the oxygen from the lungs and carrying it away to the living cells. In diseased lungs, this process is disordered and the body is deprived of oxygen. This, subsequently, causes the rise of hemoglobin levels. High hemoglobin levels may also be the possible indicators of some basic metabolic problems.
Normal levels of hemoglobin
Normal hemoglobin content of blood varies depending on the age. Here is the list of normal hemoglobin levels measured in gm/deciliter (gm/dl).Newborn babies: 17-22 gm/dlBabies with aged 1 week: 15-20gm/dlBabies aged 1 month: 11-15 gm/dlChildren:11-13 gm/dlAdult (male): 14-18gm/dlAdult (female): 12-16gm/dlAdult (Female):12-16 gm/dlMen aged more than 50 years: 12.4 to 14.9 gm/dlFemales aged more than 50 years: 11.7-13.8 gm/dl