Hemoglobin and hematocrit make up the red blood cell count in your body. They are measured as part of complete blood count (CBC) panel.

Red blood cells play an important role in transporting oxygen to all the cells of the body for proper functioning.

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What is hemoglobin?

Hemoglobin, also noted as Hgb or Hb, is what makes your blood red. This protein is rich in iron and bonds with oxygen. A sufficient hemoglobin level must be maintained so that body tissue can get enough oxygen.

Hemoglobin in whole blood is measured in grams per deciliter (g/dl). A normal hemoglobin range is between 12-18 g/dl, depending on gender.

What is hematocrit?

Hematocrit, also called HCT, is the volume of red blood cells compared to the total blood volume, which is made up of red blood cells and plasma.

In men, the normal hematocrit range is between 40-54 percent. For women, 37-47 percent is the normal range.

Both the hemoglobin and hematocrit count depend on measurements taken from the total blood volume.

They are often tested together to determine anemia, a condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells.

What causes low hemoglobin levels?

There are several reasons why your hemoglobin could be low. Your body may be producing fewer red blood cells than needed.

Your body could also be destroying more red blood cells than can be produced. Or you may have experienced a loss of blood.

Many medical conditions could cause anemia.

Urinary tract infections, enlarged spleen and hemolysis are some of the conditions that can cause red blood cells to be destroyed in your system.

Some symptoms you may experience because of low hemoglobin levels include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fatigue or weakness

What do your hematocrit levels indicate?

Abnormal hematocrit levels can point to a number of conditions. Low hematocrit levels could be caused by:

  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Leukemia (blood cancer)
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Other blood-related disorders

High levels of hematocrit can also be caused by other conditions, including:

  • Lung disease
  • Dehydration
  • Kidney tumor
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Polycythemia vera, a bone marrow disorder

What should you expect from a hemoglobin/hematocrit test?

Your healthcare provider will collect a blood sample as part of a CBC panel. This is a lab test that measures the circulating cells in your blood.

Both your hemoglobin and hematocrit levels can be tested with a CBC panel. No additional preparation is needed before the test.

Ask a healthcare provider if you need your hemoglobin/hematocrit count checked. Contact the nearest CareNow® urgent care clinic for a consultation.

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