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It is has now been one year since the devastation of Hurricane Maria, and the Puerto Rican healthcare system is still rebuilding. While in some ways it finds itself at the cutting edge, involved in trialing drone technology for delivering medicines to remote areas, in others it remains vastly overburdened.  As Puerto Ricans look to their own future with prudent financial planning  and a strong sense of self-belief, it is also important to consider what individuals can do to improve their health and reduce the strain on the system where possible. Anemia is one example of a condition which can have wide ranging consequences on health, but can be well-managed or prevented at home.

The dangers of anemia

Anemia develops when your blood is lacking in healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. It reduces the amount of oxygen supplied to your cells, increasing pressure on your heart which can result in enlargement or failure. The WHO estimate that 800 million women and children are affected by the condition, but in places such as Puerto Rico where heart disease is already the leading cause of death,  prevention is particularly critical.  While some forms of anemia, for example sickle cell, can be inherited, an estimated 50% of cases are caused by iron deficiency.

Improving your iron intake

In most cases, simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can help to boost your iron intake.  Experts in nutrition recommend eating lean meat, green leafy vegetables and lentils or pulses to increase your iron levels.  In fact, traditional Puerto Rican dishes such as arroz con gandules could be perfect. It’s also possible to take supplements or even iron injections, but careful research is required as in some cases, people have experienced complications after an iron injection. For the most part, increasing your iron through natural ingredients in your diet is the best approach as you also gain other nutrients in the process.

Other ways to improve long term health

There are, of course, other ways to improve your long term health and reduce the strain on the healthcare system.  Research has shown that in general Puerto Ricans smoke more than other Hispanic groups, with smoking leading to a multitude of health problems including heart disease, lung cancer and increased risk of stroke.  One of the very best things you can do for your future is to look into ways to quit. Obesity is the other leading cause of poor health globally; the CDC estimate that around 30% of Puerto Ricans are affected.  As with anemia, small changes can make a real impact; it’s never too late to tackle these problems and change your future.

As the Puerto Rican community looks ahead, it’s important for individuals to consider what they can do to contribute towards a healthy, prosperous future.  Preventing conditions such as anemia by boosting your iron intake is just one small way to make a difference. Other broader changes such as quitting smoking and losing weight can also help to prevent a whole range of health problems, not just helping you to feel better but conserving resources for those who need it most.  Puerto Ricans are known for their warmth and vitality; by applying the same principles to healthcare, the whole community can flourish.

 

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