Anemia linked to increased risk of dementia, study says
Anemia, or low levels of red blood cells, may increase the risk of dementia, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.
For the study, 2,552 older adults between the ages of 70-79 were tested for anemia and underwent memory and thinking tests over 11 years. Of those, 393 had anemia at the start of the study. At the end of the study, 445, or about 18 percent of participants, developed dementia.
The research found that people who had anemia at the start of the study had a nearly 41 percent higher risk of developing dementia than those who were not anemic. The link remained after considering other factors, such as age, race, sex, and education. Of the 393 people with anemia, 89 people, or 23 percent, developed dementia, compared to 366 of the 2,159 people who did not have anemia, or 17 percent.
Anemia is common in the elderly and occurs in up to 23 percent of adults ages 65 and older, according to statistics from the World Health Organization. The condition has also been linked in studies to an increased risk of early death.
"There are several explanations for why anemia may be linked to dementia,’ said Kristine Yaffe, MD, study author and professor at the University of California San Francisco. “For example, anemia may be a marker for poor health in general, or low oxygen levels resulting from anemia may play a role in the connection. Reductions in oxygen to the brain have been shown to reduce memory and thinking abilities and may contribute to damage to neurons.”
Editor's note: Photo courtesy of Freepik.