Being Anemic May Increase Your Risk of Dementia

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Feeling anemic? Well, if you really are diagnosed with this medical condition, you may be putting your brain’s health at risk, according to a new study out of the University of California, San Francisco.

    So before I launch into the study, let’s define what anemia is.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), anemia is a condition that affects the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity. In this medical condition, these cells are insufficiently prepared to meet the body’s needs. There are multiple types of anemia. These include iron deficiency, vitamin deficiency, anemia of chronic disease, aplastic anemia, anemias associated with bone marrow disease, hemolytic anemias, sickle cell anemia or thalassemia.

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    In its severe form, anemia is associated with weakness, fatigue, dizziness as well as drowsiness. Anemia can be caused by a variety of reissues. For instance, it can be due to a deficiency in key nutrients iron, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin A. Anemia also can be caused by chronic inflammation, parasitic infections, loss of blood and inherited disorders.

    Now for the study, which involved 2,252 adults who were, on average, 76 years of age. These participants didn’t have dementia when the study started. These participants were part of the Health, Aging and Body Composition study.
    The researchers used the WHO criteria of hemoglobin concentration to determine which participants had anemia. In addition, they used three standards to identify the participants who developed dementia – use of medication for dementia, hospital records or a significant change in the score of the Modified Mini-Mental State assessment.

    At the start of the study, the researchers found that 392 of the participants (15.4 percent) had anemia. Over the 11-year duration of the study, 455 participants (17.8 percent) developed dementia. Interestingly, more than one in five of the participants who had anemia developed dementia. In comparison, only 27 percent of the participants who were not anemic ended up with this type of cognitive decline. Furthermore, people who were anemic when the study began had a 41-percen higher risk of developing dementia than participants who did not have anemia.

    "We found a 60-percent increased risk of dementia with anemia,” Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a UCSF professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology and the study’s lead author, told a HealthDay reporter. “After controlling for other factors such as other medical illness, demographics, etcetera, the risk remained elevated 40 to 50 percent.”

    So what should you do if you suspect you or a loved one who is an elder has anemia? The Mayo Clinic recommends seeing your doctor immediately since anemia can be a signal that you have a serious illness. If you don’t get a diagnosis, you can set yourself up for numerous complications that include severe fatigue, heart arrhythmia, congestive heart failure and death. There are numerous treatments for anemia, which range from taking supplements to having medical procedures.

  • The Mayo Clinic points out that while many types of anemia cannot be prevented, consuming a vitamin-rich diet may help you avoid iron deficiency anemia as well as vitamin deficiency anemias. So what should you add to your diet? Here are the recommendations:

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    • Iron-rich foods such as beef and other meats, iron-fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils and dried fruit.
    • Folate or folic acid, which you can get in citrus fruits and juices, legumes, bananas, dark green leafy vegetables, and fortified breads, cereals and pasta.
    • Vitamin B-12, which is naturally found in meat and dairy products and is sometimes added to cereals and soy products.
    • Vitamin C to increases iron absorption, which can be found in citrus fruits, melons and berries.

    Primary Source for This Sharepost:

    Hong, C. H., et al. (2013). Anemia and risk of dementia in older adults. Neurology.

    Mayo Clinic. (2013). Anemia.

    MedlinePlus. (2013). Anemia might raise dementia risk, study suggests.

    World Health Organization. (nd.)  Anaemia.

Published On: August 06, 2013