The hemoglobin count is an indirect measurement of the number of red blood cells in your body. When the hemoglobin count is higher than normal, it may be a sign of a dangerous health problem.
Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that helps blood carry oxygen throughout the body.
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.
Hemoglobin is usually measured as part of a complete blood count along with hematocrit to help diagnose medical conditions and learn more about the person’s health.
Hemoglobin levels greater than 16.5 g/dL (grams per deciliter) in women and greater than 18.5 g/dL in men suggest polycythemia. In terms of hematocrit, a value greater than 48 in women and 52 in men is indicative of polycythemia.
What are hemoglobin levels?
A person’s hemoglobin levels indicate how much hemoglobin is present in their blood. Hemoglobin, also written as hemoglobin, is a complex protein found in red blood cells which helps to circulate oxygen around the body and transport carbon dioxide from tissues to the lungs.
Iron is one of the ingredients the body needs to make hemoglobin. We get iron from the food we eat. We need to take in only a small amount of iron every day. The human body is very smart, it “recycles” iron – reuses iron over and over again to make hemoglobin.
High levels of hemoglobin are relatively rare, while low levels, a condition known as anemia, are relatively common and can occur in people of all ages, though they are especially common in pregnant women and people experiencing a range of other conditions.
If a person’s levels of hemoglobin are either too low or too high, this can have a variety of consequences for one’s health.
How are hemoglobin levels measured?
A hemoglobin level is part of a standard complete blood count (CBC), so you may have your level measured when you have your routine yearly physical—even if you don’t have symptoms.
Should I worry if my hemoglobin is high?
High hemoglobin levels could be indicative of the rare blood disease, polycythemia. It causes the body to make too many red blood cells, causing the blood to be thicker than usual. It is a serious lifelong condition that can be fatal if it is not treated. This can lead to clots, heart attacks, and strokes.
What is a critical hemoglobin level?
A Hb value less than 5.0 g/dL (50 g/L) can lead to heart failure and death. A value greater than 20 g/dL (200 g/L) can lead to obstruction of the capillaries as a result of hemoconcentration.
What can I expect when my doctor finds a high hemoglobin count?
Doctors usually find a high hemoglobin count when conducting tests for another health issue. Your doctor may perform additional tests to determine the cause of the higher hemoglobin levels. These tests may look for conditions that cause your body to produce too many RBC or disorders that restrict your oxygen supply.
How is a high hemoglobin count treated?
If a medical condition is causing high hemoglobin levels, your doctor may recommend a procedure or medication to lower it.
In a procedure called phlebotomy, a health professional inserts a needle into your vein and drains blood through a tube into a bag or container. Phlebotomy is also prescribed for patients with disorders that increase the amount of iron in their blood to dangerous levels, such as hemochromatosis, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Patients with pulmonary edema may undergo phlebotomy procedures to decrease their total blood volume.
You might need to have this procedure on a repeated basis until your hemoglobin level is close to normal.