Haemoglobin is the protein in the bloodstream that carries oxygen. An individual's haemoglobin count measures his blood's oxygen-carrying capacity. Haemoglobin levels are generally considered high if they are above 17.5 grams/decilitre of blood for men or 15 grams/decilitre for women. Although red blood cells are the vehicles that carry oxygen around in the bloodstream, haemoglobin levels within these cells may vary from person to person. High haemoglobin is associated with a number of serious diseases and lifestyle choices. It is a symptom rather than a cause, meaning that treating the problems will reduce haemoglobin levels.
- Skill level:
Drink adequate water. Dehydration can cause high haemoglobin levels.
Avoid performance-enhancing drugs. Athletes taking erythropoietin as a doping agent have experienced elevated haemoglobin levels.
Move to a lower altitude. Haemoglobin levels rise to compensate for the reduced oxygen levels of high-altitude air. Allowing your body to adjust to thicker air close to sea level will bring your levels down.
Seek treatment for serious or chronic diseases. High haemoglobin levels are associated with liver and kidney cancer, heart failure, congenital heart disease and blood marrow disorders. If test results reveal high haemoglobin, investigate all of these possibilities as soon as possible and treat them. Successful treatment will bring haemoglobin levels down.
Stop smoking. By interfering with lung function and causing low blood oxygen levels, cigarettes force your body to produce more oxygen-carrying proteins to ensure an adequate supply to your body's systems. Quitting smoking will let your lungs recover some function, rendering some of the elevated haemoglobin unnecessary.
Tips and warnings
- High haemoglobin levels usually emerge during broader blood testing. Given their association with serious disorders, be sure to follow up these tests fully.
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