As we age, women need to really watch their diet. I’m not talking about calories in this instance, but on the types of food that we eat. A recent study by University of Arizona researchers found that poor diet by postmenopausal women is linked to a greater risk of developing anemia, as reported by Bloomberg Businessweek.
The researchers, who used data from 72,833 older women in the United States, found that deficiencies in more than a single nutrient were associated with a 21% increase in risk of persistent anemia. This risk increased 44% if a woman was deficient in three nutrients. In the study, women who had anemia consumed less protein, folate, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin C and red meat than women who didn’t have this condition.
So what is anemia? According to womenshealth.com, this condition occurs when a person has less than the normal number of red blood cells in the blood or when these red blood cells do not have enough of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin, which is a protein that gives the red color to blood, carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. When a person is anemic, the blood does not carry enough oxygen to all parts of the body, which causes the organs and tissues to work inefficiently. More than three million Americans have anemia. This condition happens when:
- The body loses too much blood, or
- The body has difficulty making red blood cells, or
- The red blood cells break down or die faster than the body can replace them, or
- More than one of these problems happens at the same time.
Womenshealth.com also noted that anemia takes time to develop and in the early stages you may not feel any signs. As this condition progresses, the symptoms include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, numbness or coldness in feet and hands, low body temperature, pale skin, rapid or irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain and irritability. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that anemia has been associated with the reduced ability to do physical work and physical activity, as well as injuries due to falls and hospitalizations. Additionally, anemia, especially iron deficiency anemia, has been linked to an increased risk of death. Womenshealth.com reported that this type of anemia is the most common type and happens when a person does not have enough iron in the body. Iron is necessary to make hemoglobin. Low iron levels can be caused by blood loss through very heavy and long periods, uterine fibroids, ulcers, colon polyps, colon cancer, regular use of aspirin and other drugs for pain, infections, severe injury, and surgery. A diet low in iron also can cause iron deficiency anemia. Foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products and iron-fortified foods such as cereals provide the best sources of iron.
Interestingly, the University of Arizona researchers found that the use of multivitamin and mineral supplements was not associated with lower rates of anemia; instead, age, body mass index and smoking were linked to the condition.