Electronically determined red blood cell values in a large number of healthy black adults: Subpopulations with low hemoglobin and red blood cell indices

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Using an electronic blood cell counter, the authors determined the hemoglobin, hematocrit, red cell count, mean corpuscular volume, mean corpuscular hemoglobin, and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration of 3,668 healthy black adults (1,515 men and 2,153 women) screened 1977-1980 at a mobile health unit operating in Washington, DC, and the surrounding counties in Virginia and Maryland. As expected, males had higher hemoglobin levels than females at all ages. However, these differences diminished with age, both because of a slight increase in hemoglobin values among older females and a decrease in hemoglobin values among older males. Cumulative frequencies of hemoglobin, mean corpuscular volume, and mean corpuscular hemoglobin were plotted using probability scales. Among black males, subpopulations with low hemoglobin values and low red cell indices were identified. Because iron deficiency is uncommon in adult males, these findings are probably attributable to α- and β-thalassemia traits. Among black females, individuals with microcytic and hypochromic red cells were detectable at all ages, but a clearly identifiable group with low hemoglobin did not become apparent until after 60 years of age. The authors speculate that mild iron deficiency may have selectively affected the hemoglobin level of non-thalassemic females. © 1985 by The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.

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