Hemoglobin is the main component of red blood cells. Hemoglobin (abbreviation: Hb) is a red substance made of iron and protein in the blood that carries oxygen to the cells in the body from the lungs. Hemoglobin also carries carbon dioxide away from the cells to the lungs, which is then exhaled from the body. Carbon dioxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is present in small amounts in the air and is produced as a result of metabolism in the body. Metabolism is the chemical actions in cells that release energy from nutrients or use energy to create other substances. Measured in grams per deciliter (g/dL), normal ranges for hemoglobin counts differ depending on an individual's age and sex. It's important to note that hemoglobin counts of endurance athletes can be as much as 30% higher than that of the average adult, which is considered normal. Like other blood values, slightly high or low levels of hemoglobin may be normal for some people. Still, if you are falling too far out of the normal range, your doctor will most likely order more comprehensive testing to determine the cause.
Elevated hemoglobin by itself is not considered a disorder, but rather a symptom of a medical condition. Therefore, treatment must target the underlying cause.
Normal Ranges for Hemoglobin in g/dL:
Men: 14 to 18
Women: 12 to 16
Children to up 18 years of age: 11 to 13
Critical Range: <5 or >20
12 - 15.5 g/dL
120.00 - 155.00 g/L
High levels of hemoglobin are associated with increased blood thickness. This can slow down the blood flow and oxygen transport and in some cases form blood clots which increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Some specific causes of high hemoglobin might be:
- Living at high altitude
- Medications such as anabolic steroids (incl. testosterone) and others.
- Poor lung function
- Heart problems
- Kidney Cancer
- Liver Cancer
Low hemoglobin levels can be caused by a number of diseases and disorders that are characterized by low blood cell counts, premature destruction of red blood cells, or blood loss.
Some specific causes of low hemoglobin might be:
- Acute or chronic blood loss.
- Anemia (iron-deficiency, sickle cell, vitamin-deficiency, etc)
- Bone marrow disorder
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