The blood is an essential element found inside our body. We are aware of its importance in our lives, but it has a lot of actions that remain to be a puzzle for us. We must know that it is also made up of different components for it to function correctly. One of its composition is the red blood cells. It is found in the 46% portion of our blood, while white blood cells and platelets cover less than 1%. Also, 55% of our blood consists of plasma.
Just imagine the condition of your body if this percentage is not balanced. The imbalance amount of those particular components may cause risks to your health. With this in mind, it is vital to learn the importance of the red blood cells, so we will know how to take care of it. Let us go step-by-step on understanding this critical element of our blood.
What is a red blood cell?
The red blood cell is an element found in the blood which is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs and distributing them to the tissues. This cellular component of the blood is also called erythrocyte. It is described as round and concave cells circulating objects. It is measured at 7.8 micrometers in diameter. Just imagine how tiny it is!
Commonly, it appears in dumbbell shape while passing through the blood vessels. It is flexible and covered with a membrane. The membranes covering the red blood cells are also special elements that give the blood an ultimate function. They consist of proteins and lipids are well-maintained as the cells perform its work.
On the other hand, it contains hemoglobin which is a type of protein rich in iron. It is responsible for binding the oxygen that flows in the blood.
How does a red blood cell work?
Before red blood cells are formed, they undergo several stages before they are fully developed. Although they are found in the blood, be aware that they are formed in the red bone marrow. The bone marrow has stem cells which are called hemocytoblasts. It is known to have the particular ability to create any blood cell.
After the process, they transform into an erythroblast. It is then filled with hemoglobin during the ongoing stage. During two to five days, both the mitochondria and nucleus disappear. The mitochondrion is a small particle found in the cytoplasm responsible for providing energy to the cells.
It takes several days for the red blood cells to form. However, their lives last up to 100 to 120 days. It is also amazing to know that the adult human body consists of 25 trillion red cells based on the American Red Cross data.
What is the function of red blood cells?
The red blood cells, or erythrocyte, are responsible for carrying the oxygen from the lungs and transports it to the entire body, which is also called gas exchange. It then eliminates the carbon dioxide as a waste product from the tissues and brings it back to the lungs. This process is happening through the cardiovascular system.
This system allows the heart to circulate the blood while the oxygen is pumped to the lungs through the help of the respiratory system. Through exhaling, this body system can expel the carbon dioxide.
It also consists of hemoglobin, an essential protein that promotes proper circulation of oxygen in the body. The red blood cells are also abundant components of the blood. Its biconcave shape allows it to flow smoothly even to the tiniest blood vessels in the body.
There are specific identifiers found on its surface that are used to determine the blood type of humans. They are also referred as antigens. Aside from it, the red blood cells also contain hemoglobin, which gives the red color of the blood. This element is present in the blood due to the absence of the nucleus.
What happens if the red blood cells get damaged?
Be aware that red blood cells have no nucleus. Because of this situation, it hinders them to withstand the wear and tear as they circulate all throughout the narrow sections of the circulating system. As an expected result, these elements easily get damaged after three to four months. However, one good thing that happens is that the spleen removes these damaged elements to prevent them from harming our health.
Not all of those particles are completely eliminated. Iron, for example, are left and are being recycled to start another stage of creating new forms of red blood cells. In the normal process of the blood, you must expect that there are mature red cells that get damaged every day while new forms replaced the old ones.
Some damaged red blood cells that are not recycled, instead they are eliminated through the urine. The kidneys function at this time to filter out the dead cells. It is the body’s way to clean them since they cannot repair themselves because they have no nucleus.
The red blood cells live temporarily in the body. They are naturally damaged. However, there are certain cases that they are malformed. Instead of being circular, it forms into a crescent shape. This condition is called sickle cell anemia. It happens if the hemoglobin that is present did not function correctly. As a result, the blood is not transported in the circulatory system properly. It will then lead to fatigue and other illnesses.
It is, therefore, essential that the hemoglobin is recycled. It is considered to be the most crucial part of the red blood cell because it is responsible for carrying oxygen all throughout the body’s circulatory system. It is a good thing because the blood also contains protein, a compound which is referred as haptoglobin.
The haptoglobins are elements that are floating in the blood and are carried to the spleen together with the hemoglobin. Both are recycled, but some of their pieces flow into the kidney so they can be excreted.
Typically, the red blood cells should rupture only at a low rate every second. However, if it happens rapidly, then you might suffer from anemia, a health condition wherein the body is lacking red blood cells.
Common disorders of the red blood cells
Due to some problems with the red blood cells, the body may suffer from different illnesses. One of the worldwide health problems is anemia, which is happening when the body is lacking new red blood cells. It means that their numbers are not enough to function well in transporting the oxygen to the tissues.
The typical symptoms of anemia are fatigue, heart palpitations, and dizziness. In worst cases, blood loss and overall destruction of red blood cells can happen. In this chronic ailment, there is not enough production of red blood cells that can sustain or replace the damaged ones. The following are the different types of anemia:
- Iron-deficiency anemia
In iron-deficiency anemia, the body lacks iron which is essential in boosting the production of red blood cells. As a result, the patient may suffer continued menstruation which can lead to blood loss.
Pregnant women are at risk of this health issue. During this time, the body needs a double amount of iron because the baby also needs enough oxygen. To prevent blood loss and severity of this health condition, the doctor will prescribe an iron supplement. The mother should also eat iron-rich foods to combat this problem.
- Sickle-cell anemia
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited anemia that can happen when the hemoglobin forms into a sickle shape instead of being concave in shape. Due to its abnormal growth, they cannot flow freely through the tiniest blood vessels in the body. They are instead stuck to the vessels that prevent the proper flow of the blood.
- Hemolytic anemia
The hemolytic anemia happened when the red blood vessels were destroyed even before they are fully developed or becomes mature. It is usually happening when a person suffers from infection or blood cancer.
Practical ways to boost the production of red blood cells
Some of the disorders of the red blood cells can be treated and are manageable. Thankfully, there are effective ways to prevent the existence of this problem.
- Proper diet
One of the excellent ways to maintain the adequate production of red blood cells is by eating the right kinds of foods. They must contain the essential minerals that our body needs to increase the number of red cells that our body needs.
Iron is the most essential mineral that aids in the proper production of red blood cells. It is found on meats such as beef, liver, and kidney. You can also get it from eating dark green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and kale. You can also include dried fruits in your diets such as raisins and prunes to supply your body with this mineral. Egg yolks, legumes, beans, nuts, and grains are also helpful to increase the amount of iron that your body needs.
Copper is another essential mineral that you need to supply to your body. Be aware that it does not produce red blood cells. Instead, it helps the cells absorb the mineral iron which is necessary for their reproduction. It is therefore essential to include shellfish, poultry, cherries, beans, and other copper-rich foods in your daily meal.
Folic acid and B12
Wonder why obstetricians commonly prescribe folic acid supplements to pregnant women? This mineral prevents the malformation of the newly produced red blood cells. Together with the vitamin B12, they can fight the malfunctioning and abnormal growth of these cells.
Foods that are rich in folic acid are enriched cereals and bread, nuts, peas, and dark, leafy, green vegetables. You can also get the vitamin B12 from eggs, .fish, dairy products, and red meat.
- Take supplements
Another best thing to increase the production of red blood cells in your body is by taking supplements. It is essential if you are not receiving enough vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. This condition may happen on picky eaters and those who are allergic to some foods. Aside from iron, copper, folic acid, and 12, there are a lot of supplements that your doctor can prescribe to supply other nutrients that contribute to the making of new red blood cells.
Vitamin C – this vitamin is not only essential to protect us from sickness. It also aids in the better absorption of iron so the body function well in manufacturing red blood cells.
Retinol – it is famously called Vitamin A and does not only boost the amount of collagen in the body. Just like vitamin C and copper, it also helps the red blood cells access iron during the reproduction process.
Vitamin E – this essential nutrient does not only protect the tissues against the free radicals, but it can also widen the blood vessels to let the blood flow properly and prevent the blood clot.
Aside from these effective measures, the body can also contain hormones called Erythropoietin (EPO). They are manufactured mainly by the renal cortex of the kidneys and are responsible for boosting the number of red blood cells. They can also be produced in some parts of the body such as brain, uterus, and liver.
These hormones flow to the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. However, it should only limit itself in stimulating the production process because too much of it can also be risky to human health.
- Healthy lifestyle
Aside from taking essential vitamins and minerals, you also need to live a healthy lifestyle. It is one sure way to prevent not just the existence of anemia, but other diseases as well. Eating the right kinds of foods and taking supplements is not enough to sustain our body needs.
Get enough sleep and keep yourself away from stress. Make exercise a habit as well. It is a way for your body to aim more oxygen and transmits this signal to your brain. It will not only trigger the reproduction of red blood cells, but you are also able to achieve overall wellness.