Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that contains four chains, each with one heme group. The heme group contains iron that binds with oxygen, which enters the body through the lungs. Hemoglobin within red blood cells picks up the oxygen, which is supplied to cells and tissues as the red blood cells travel throughout the body. There are billions of cells in the human body, and each cell requires oxygen to function. Hemoglobin levels inform on overall health, and abnormal levels can indicate illness.
Blood tests can measure hemoglobin levels. The abbreviation for hemoglobin is Hb, and the measurement is usually recorded as grams of hemoglobin per deciliter of blood, or g/dL. Common tests include complete blood count, or CBC, and hematocrit tests. The latter measures the volume of red blood cells compared to total blood volume. It is also referred to as HCT, Crit, PCV for packed cell volume, or an "H and H" for hemoglobin and hematocrit. The average hemoglobin range is 14-18 g/dl for an average man and 12-16 g/dl for an adult woman.
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