Sickle Cell Anemia: A Primer on the Disease That Affects the Black Community

*We’ve all heard about Sickle Cell Anemia disproportionately affecting the African American population.

Let’s take a closer look to better our understanding of it and find out how it can affect our lifestyle. The first thing to understand about this blood disorder is what it does and why is it common among our community.

What is Sickle Cell Anemia?

In this blood disorder, the red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen all across the body are not healthy enough to travel through blood vessels. In order to go through blood vessels, the red blood cells have to be flexible and smooth but those with Sickle Cell Anemia or ‘Sicklers’ have rigid red blood cells. As a result of this, smaller blood vessels get blocked by these unhealthy blood cells. This leads to bodily pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, Anemia (that is decrease in healthy red blood cells), bacterial infection, swelling of limbs and stroke. As a person with Sickle Cell Anemia grows older, the pain becomes chronic i.e. constant.

Why Do Black Folks Have a Higher Chance of Getting It?

Sickle Cell Anemia is common to people of African descent as well as India and the Arabian Peninsula. It developed among African folks as a natural defense mechanism against malaria, a disease that is common to the African continent. This defense is created in the body by having one sickle cell gene and one normal hemoglobin gene. Carrying one sickle cell gene doesn’t mean the person suffers from the blood disorder. Instead, it means that they are carriers and may transfer it to their kids. However, having only the Sickle Cell gene sans the healthy hemoglobin gene means that one suffers from the disorder.oever, having a

Is There a Cure for Sickle Cell Anemia?

Sickle Cell Anemia is a hereditary disorder and can even be detected in the womb. There is only one known cure, bone marrow transplant. However, it is rare to find matching donors and the procedure itself is risky with many complications. The disorder was once considered a death sentence with no one expected to live past childhood. However, through extensive medical research and improvement in medical care, people with Sickle Cell Anemia are expected to live past 50.

How Can One Cope With Sickle Cell Anemia?

Through early detection, one can take active steps to take care of their health and make healthy lifestyle choices. Since it’s a blood disorder, one way of coping with it is through regular blood transfusions. Since they are most susceptible to infection and pain, antibiotics and pain management are also part of Sicklers’ care routine. A new cancer drug, hydroxyurea, is known to create the healthier fetal hemoglobin in the body that stops red blood cells to harden or ‘sickle’.

A Sickler doesn’t have the same level of natural defenses in their body. This means that they need to be vigilant about living a healthy lifestyle. A Sickler’s body also requires more nutrients than the average person’s recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) prescribed. They require more macronutrients like protein as well as micronutrients like Vitamin D. It also means that they can’t be irresponsible with their health. No over-excessive drinking that can jeopardize the liver, no smoking to jeopardize the lungs, no over-consumption of greasy food to weaken the heart.

Prodigy of Mobb Deep died last year due to complications from Sickle Cell Anemia. Even in the excessive world of hip-hop, he maintained a healthy lifestyle and successfully managed his disease. He was a role model in the community, who didn’t let his disease bring him down. This goes to show that those in our community have this disorder can rise above it and be successful individuals.

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