Listen to me, I’m sounding all sporty 😂. I’m not though, just in case you suffer misguided visions of my virtues! But it’s not just the self-declared serious athletes that we need to have on our radar in relation to optimising their oxygen carrying capacity (aka window to winning). Our clinics are full of people, regularly running, doing triathlons for fun (!), riding vast distances clad in Lycra to drink coffee in other town’s cafes etc. etc. whose FBE might be feeling the pinch! That’s right! All these individuals, depending on the frequency and intensity of their exercise, could have the so-called, anaemia of an athlete.
Long gone is the idea that exercise-induced changes to your haemoglobin and red blood cells and perhaps even your iron, would only affect the ultra-marathon runners among us. It’s the swimmers, the cyclists, the Roller Derbyists, the CrossFitters, the basketballers, the Gym Junkies, the lawn bowlers..ok I may have gone too far now…they all are at increased risk.
Why? Isn’t exercise good for you? You know I so want to say, ‘Surprise! It’s not!’ but alas. Of course it is good for us BUT there are some fascinating challenges regular exercise can throw at your dear old blood and its bestie, iron. These challenges are incredibly dynamic – having one effect during exercise, a different one immediately following, and yet another in the days of rest in between. And sometimes, in fact, often, our patients can end up on the wrong side of these seismic shifts. Here’s how the story usually goes
“Oh yeah..I’ve had anaemia for ages! You know and it doesn’t matter how much Iron I take or how I take it – it never budges. But I’ve been told to stay on the Ferrograd anyway”
Typically, being told it’s ‘Athlete’s Anaemia’ is the first, in a series, of many many errors to follow. Because in fact, there is no such thing. That’s right. Anaemia is a symptom not a disease and exercise induced anaemia comes in 4 common flavours: Dilutional, Heamolytic, Iron Deficient & Acute Anaemia of Exercise, and knowing the difference is critical to correct management. Only 1 of them will reliably improve with iron and it needs to be prescribed in a totally novel way. Others will get worse with more iron. Yep. And one is a complete illusion. So when we don’t make the right diagnosis, which of the 4 types your patient actually has, we fail to find the fix. And while all of our patients may not be overly obsessed with improving their performance or even winning, let’s face it, they all want to achieve their PB, that’s why they came to see you. So can you tell the difference?
WARNING: I got so enthused about this topic that I went over. The current ‘Update in Under 30’ is a ‘serving suggestion’ only! And you may need to speed up your playback to squeeze in another bonus 10 min, if you can only afford your usual 30 min car trip to listen!
Outrunning ‘Athlete’s’ Anaemia
Persistent ‘hard-to-resolve’ anaemia is a common presentation for anyone participating routinely in sport and that can be at any level, not just among the professionals. From our lovely ladies who take up running or CrossFit in their middle-age, to our MIL (men in Lycra) and ‘weekend warriors’, they may love it but their haemoglobin and their iron doesn’t! Anaemia equals reduced oxygen carrying capacity, a concern for anyone interested in optimising their performance but equally relevant to patients just trying to manage their energy throughout the day. In this important episode we identify 4 different types of anaemia seen in patients as a result of exercise, incorrectly lumped together as ‘Athlete’s Anaemia’. Each type is easy to recognise once you know how and effective treatment of each is remarkably different. This summary and the super handy clinical resource that accompanies it will help you and your patients absolutely outrun it, at last.
You can purchase March’s episode, Outrunning ‘Athlete’s’ Anaemia here.