According to the World Health Organization in the U.S., high levels of hemoglobin is common in individuals who smoke as well as those living in high altitude regions.
Having high levels of hemoglobin occurs due to several underlying conditions or environmental/lifestyle factors, which reflects on a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues, also known as hypoxia.
“Normal hemoglobin counts are 14 to 17 gm/dL (grams per deciliter) for men and 12 to 15 gm/dL for women. Hemoglobin levels depend on many factors, including age, race, gender and the general health of the person,” as noted by the Cleveland Clinic.
Research indicates that for smokers there is a natural increase in red blood cells, which is needed to compensate for the low oxygen.
Some factors that contribute to those elevated counts:
- Use of tobacco products
- Lung and heart problems
- Abuse of anabolic steroid
Living at a high altitude naturally increases your red blood cell production to compensate for the lower oxygen supply.
What do high levels of hemoglobin mean
High hemoglobin levels mean that there is an increased level of iron-containing protein in erythrocytes, when is above 17.5g/dl in men, and higher than 15.5g/dl for women.
High levels of hemoglobin is an indication that the body needs to increase its oxygen-carrying capacity.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have a high count without other abnormalities, it’s unlikely that it indicates a related serious condition.
“Your doctor is likely to order other tests to help determine the cause of your high levels count,” mentions the source.
Congenital heart disease in adults, dehydration, or emphysema, are among the conditions that may contribute to this issue.
Tests and measures to lower hemoglobin
After acknowledging that you have high levels of hemoglobin, your doctor may recommend the following test and measures to get the ranges back to normal.
- Stop smoking. Remember, smoking decreases oxygen delivery to body tissues; thus, it causes the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
- Perform a chest x-ray. It may diagnose lung problems that may be contributing to a high hemoglobin level. Lung disease is a common cause of high hemoglobin level because diseased lungs take in less oxygen.
- Hydrate! Dehydration is a common cause of an elevated hemoglobin level and can increase levels by 10 to 15%. Water is the liquid of choice to bring up the hemoglobin count.
- A doctor may suggest getting a procedure called phlebotomy, in which red blood cells are removed from the body in a manner similar to donating blood. Talk to your doctor about this procedure if you find it suitable.