Hematocrit is the ratio of the volume of red blood cells to the total amount of blood in a sample. Red blood cells are essential to health because they transport oxygen and nutrients across the body. To remain healthy, you need the correct hematocrit levels. Several conditions can cause hematocrit to be too high or low.
The normal range for hematocrit depends on both gender and age. Since hematocrit levels change quickly as children age, there is a completely separate set of average hematocrit levels against which doctors will compare samples taken from children. The typical hematocrit range for adult men is between 38 and 50 percent, while adult women typically range from 34 to 44 percent.
A hematocrit test will help your medical provider diagnose a particular condition. It can also help him or her determine how well your body is responding to a specific treatment. Most often, the test is used to determine specifics about anemia, leukemia, dehydration, and other dietary deficiencies. If your physician orders a complete blood count test, the hematocrit test is already included.
If you have low hematocrit levels, it mean the ratio of red blood cells is small in comparison to total blood volume. Low hematocrit levels can indicate a variety of illnesses and mean your cells aren't getting enough oxygen. Some of these illnesses include bone marrow diseases, iron deficiencies, leukemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell anemia.
The most common cause of low hematocrit is anemia, which is the result of a deficiency in iron or another vitamin. Iron deficiency anemia can result from substantial blood loss, pregnancy, or not having enough iron in your diet. Diet and lifestyle changes can help low hematocrit.
If your hematocrit is low due to diet, try incorporating more high-iron foods such as red meat, fish, dried fruit, and green, leafy vegetables. Eating foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and broccoli can help in iron absorption. Ensuring you're getting enough vitamin D from proper sun exposure or fortified foods is also essential.
The treatment for low hematocrit depends on the underlying causes, the specific level, and overall health. Therefore, you might need a prescribed medication, blood transfusion, or an IV with iron, depending on your situation. The goal of these treatment methods is to help stimulate red blood cell production within your bone marrow.
In addition to being too low, hematocrit levels can also be too high, and this can also indicate illness. High hematocrit levels can signify congenital heart disease, dehydration, and lung diseases. Any abnormality in hematocrit levels can be concerning. After receiving the test results, you and your medical provider will discuss underlying causes as well as treatment options.
The most common cause of high hematocrit is dehydration. Severe dehydration reduces the volume of plasma in the blood, which causes a reduction in total blood volume. When you’re dehydrated, the total number of red blood cells is not impacted. Instead, the reduction of the blood volume increases the volume of packed red blood cells, causing increased hematocrit levels.
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of high hematocrit; staying hydrated is essential to a healthy body. Dehydration results in higher hematocrit levels because there is less liquid in the body to dilute the blood, making for a higher plasma volume. Drinking enough water will help keep your hematocrit level within normal range. You should strive for eight glasses a day.
Similar to low hematocrit levels, treatment of high hematocrit levels depends on the underlying cause, the test results, and the individual's overall health. Some patients with very high hematocrit levels may require blood removal. Typically, abnormal hematocrit levels are monitored with routine blood testing.
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