Living With Sickle Cell

Although there are medical treatments available for sickle-cell anemia, doctors also recommend lifestyle changes to help sufferers better manage the condition. There are precautions you can and should take to keep yourself healthy and minimize crises.

Many of these are common-sense tips for everybody, but they are particularly relevant if you have sickle cell:

  • Be sure you get folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that is a vital part of the making of red blood cells. By taking supplements and eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—important sources of folic acid—you can boost your red blood cell replacement rate.
  • Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated helps lower your risk of sickle-cell crisis. Keep water with you, especially on hot or dry days or if you’re getting a lot of exercise.
  • Be sure to get enough sleep. Tell your doctor if you snore or have any other signs of sleep apnea, which can interfere with restful sleep and leave you tired and vulnerable to sickle-cell anemia complications.
  • Stay away from temperature extremes, including swimming in cold water. Both extreme hot and extreme cold can trigger crisis pain.
  • Avoid medications such as the decongestant pseudoephedrine that constrict blood vessels, making it even harder for misshapen cells to get through.
  • Be alert at high altitudes or while flying. The thinner air means there’s less oxygen available, so be prepared to have supplemental oxygen.
  • Exercise regularly, but without overdoing it. Stay fit, but don’t overexert yourself and risk triggering a crisis.

Your doctor can help you develop a strategy to reduce the intensity and frequency of sickle-cell crises. With proper treatment, you can live a happy life with sickle-cell anemia.

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