Can anemia affect the heart?

The question of whether anemia can or cannot affect the heart is still a bother to many individuals. Anemia, which is mainly caused by iron deficiency, is a challenge to the cardiovascular system. Iron helps in the production of hemoglobin that takes oxygen to other body organs. If anemia remains untreated, it takes over the body and most especially the heart. Research shows that people who are anemic are at risk of a heart attack. Also, the condition of individuals with heart disease may get worse if they develop anemia. So, can anemia affect the heart? The answer is yes! Here is how it affects the heart.

Increased heart rate

Anemia affects the number of times the heart beats every minute when a person is at rest (resting heart rate). The volume of red blood cells that transport oxygen to other body organs and tissues in the circulatory system is low in people with anemia. This leads to a higher resting heart rate which signifies that a person has anemia. Decreased number of red blood cells means less oxygen is carried to the body organs. This causes the heart pump faster so as to quicken the circulation of the present red blood cells. This may, in turn, lead to irregular heartbeats or heart failure.

Reduced oxygen

First, when an individual is anemic, the body does not get enough oxygen as it requires.  Therefore, anemia affects the cardiovascular system through decreased oxygen that is carried to the body organs and tissues. This is due to the fewer number of red blood cells produced by the body which does not have adequate hemoglobin. Continued delivery of reduced oxygen may in turn cause damage to both the heart, brain and other body organs. In this case, anemia may as well cause death.


Anemia affects person’s volume of the red blood cells in the blood. The number and size of red blood cells in blood, determine the hematocrit of a person. When an individual has hematocrit, it is an indication that he is anemic. Additionally, levels of hematocrit which are higher than normal may cause thickening of blood making it difficult for the heart to pump, thus leading to a heart attack. Shortness of breath is one of the signs that a person has low hematocrit levels.

Other effects of anemia

Anemia is a medical condition that can cause severe damage if it is not treated. It does not only affect the heart, but it also affects other body organs. Other effects include fatigue, numbness, frequent headaches, and chest pain.


The heart being the central part of the body is in danger of being affected by anemia if the condition remains untreated. This can, therefore, put a person’s life in jeopardy. Anemia can be treated, and this can be by initiating dietary changes, vitamin supplements such as vitamin B12, iron, and folate.  Taking medications that increase the production of red blood cells can also help in treating the condition so as to keep the heart healthy.

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