Hemoglobin is a basic metalloprotein that is present in the red blood cells. It is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues, from where it carries carbon dioxide back to the lungs. Hemoglobin molecules help the red blood cells to maintain their shape. If the level of hemoglobin in the blood becomes too low or high, it could be an indication of underlying medical conditions. People who experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, pallor, etc., are often advised to test their hemoglobin level. This is a routine test that is done in most laboratories.

Normal Hemoglobin Levels

Gender and Age GroupHemoglobin Count (gm/dl)
Newborn14 to 24
1 month to 2 years9.5 to 13.5
2 to 6 years11.5 to 13.5
6 to 12 years11.5 to 15.5
12 to 18 years (male)13 to 16
12 to 18 years (female)12 to 16
Adult male13.8 to 17.2
Adult female12.1 to 15.1
Elderly men12.4 to 14.9
Elderly women11.7 to 13.8

You must have noticed that the normal hemoglobin level varies according to the age and gender. Babies tend to have a higher hemoglobin range, as their bodies are trying to grow and get the organs into a fully functioning mode. Thus, the respiratory rate is also very high in newborns. The normal hemoglobin range for women is slightly on the lower side compared to that of men. This is because, women lose blood during menstruation. Normal hemoglobin level tends to rise slightly during pregnancy, as there is an increased need for oxygen in the body. Furthermore, as a person ages, the rate of production of red blood cells tends to decrease, and so, elderly people have slightly lower hemoglobin levels.

High/Low Hemoglobin Levels

Some people have a naturally high hemoglobin level, which is mostly seen as an adaptive change. For example, people who live at high altitudes tend to have higher levels of hemoglobin, to make up for the insufficient amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. A high hemoglobin level may indicate underlying medical conditions too. Certain bone marrow diseases can cause production of an abnormally large number of red blood cells, as is seen in conditions like polycythemia vera. Those with such diseases have a high level of hemoglobin. The condition may also be found in those with COPD and congenital heart diseases. Dehydration may also cause a rise in hemoglobin levels.

However, a sharp drop in hemoglobin level can be an alarming condition. It may either indicate nutritional deficiency, as is seen in iron deficiency anemia; or problems of the bone marrow or spleen. In both cases, the level of red blood cells may become too low, thereby causing a drop in the hemoglobin level. In case of anemia, symptoms such as shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, etc., may develop. Leukemia, bleeding from the digestive tract, and chronic kidney disease, may also cause a low hemoglobin count.

Though a minor variation from the normal hemoglobin range may not be a cause of concern, medical attention must be sought, if there is a sharp changes. This is because, too high or low levels may indicate underlying medical conditions that have to be diagnosed and treated at the earliest.

Hemoglobin range may vary from person to person slightly, but as long as one stays within the normal range, you can be sure that you're fit and fine!

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.