Healthy Living with Thalassemia
For people living with Thalassemia, it is important to know that a healthy lifestyle means “managing the disorder”. Nutritional deficiencies are common in thalassemia, due to haemolytic anaemia, increased nutritional requirements, and morbidities such as iron overload, diabetes, and chelator use.
A person with thalassemia will need to receive medical care on a regular basis from a haematologist or a doctor who specializes in treating patients with thalassemia. The most important thing a person with thalassemia can do is stick to their transfusion to prevent severe anaemia and possible organ damage from iron overload, respectively.
How can a person living with Thalassemia stay Healthy?
Healthy choices a person with thalassemia should consider include keeping vaccinations up-to-date, eating nutritious meals, exercising, and developing positive relationships.
People with thalassemia are considered “high risk” for certain infections so it is important that they should get all recommended vaccines including a flu vaccination.
Too much iron may build up in the blood hence foods high in iron may need to be limited for Thalassemia patients. Iron can be found in meat, fish, and some vegetables (e.g., spinach). Other products, like cereal and orange juice, may contain extra iron.
Patients should be evaluated annually by a registered dietitian regarding adequate dietary intake of calcium, vitamin D, folate, trace minerals (copper, zinc, and selenium) and antioxidant vitamins (E and C). Calcium supplement should be encouraged if dietary intake is insufficient. Typically multivitamin supplementation without iron is suggested. Alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking are to be discouraged. Cigarette smoking affects bone remodelling and is associated with osteoporosis.
Some people with Thalassemia may have trouble participating in vigorous forms of exercise, many people with thalassemia can participate in moderate physical activities including biking, running, and walking. If a person with thalassemia has problems with their joints, they can choose from certain low-impact activities like yoga, swimming.
However, Persons with Thalassemia should discuss with their doctor whether or not they should limit the amount of iron in their diet & the level of exercise that would be best for them.
Warm, supportive relationships with Friends, co-workers, classmates, and family members can offer support in managing thalassemia (e.g., offering a ride to the transfusion centre, gentle reminders about your medication & Transfusion schedule, etc.) and coping with stress of daily life.
Romantic relationships can also offer a source of support. In addition, if you have thalassemia, thalassemia trait, or know someone in your family with thalassemia, genetic counselling is recommended prior to any pregnancy so that you and your partner can be informed of your risk of having a child with thalassemia.