Is a high hemoglobin count good?

Updated April 17, 2017

Haemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to tissue, should not be too low or too high on a blood count. While it is important to not have a count that is too low, an abnormally high count can indicate several diseases and conditions.

What Is Hemoglobin?

Haemoglobin is a protein molecule, present in red blood cells, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. In normal adults, haemoglobin contains four molecules that are chained together. Haemoglobin also carries iron, which is responsible for the red colour of the red blood cells, and it maintains the shape of the blood cells.

High Hemoglobin

Haemoglobin is measured as part of a blood count, which can be determined via several methods. Usually blood counts are measured through a machine that exposes the haemoglobin to cyanide, then shining a light to see how it is absorbed. High haemoglobin means that there are more than a normal number of protein molecules in the red blood cells. Haemoglobin counts can be high temporarily, due to dehydration or high altitude. They can also be abnormally high due to being a smoker, or having certain kinds of tumours and disorders.

Is High Hemoglobin Good?

While high haemoglobin is generally not good, it can be important to have a haemoglobin count above a certain number. Generally, a low haemoglobin count means that you have anaemia, bone marrow problems, or kidney failure. Therefore, if you suffer from one of these diseases, it is important to have haemoglobin that is high enough. But usually a higher than normal haemoglobin count is not a good sign.

Link to Disease

A high haemoglobin count (above 16 gm/dl for an adult female; above 18 gm/dl for an adult male) can be indicative of several disorders and diseases. Advanced lung disease, such as emphysema, can cause an abnormally high haemoglobin count. Tumours, bone marrow disorders, and drug abuse can also cause a high haemoglobin count.


There are many treatments for someone with a high haemoglobin count, but treatment depends on what the count is indicating. Usually a doctor will do several tests to determine the cause of the high haemoglobin count before deciding upon a treatment.

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About the Author

Abbey Baker is a writer and teacher at an alternative school in Burlington, Vt., where she specializes in working with students who have learning disabilities. Baker has a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing and writes short stories. She recently had a short story published in "Eleven Eleven" journal.