Anemia and the risk of dementia in older adults
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By Julie Ann Anderson  October 4, 2013 12:00 am

There's still much that we don't know about dementia, but scientists keep investigating the condition. A recent study suggests anemia may be related to the development of dementia.

What is the study?

The study, called “Anemia and risk of dementia in older adults,” was published July 31 in the online edition of Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology. As with all scientific studies, there's a lot that's hard for lay people to understand.

Here are the basics: the authors looked at 2,552 senior citizens who, when the study began, did not have dementia. Over the 11 years of the study, 455 of these individuals (almost 18 percent) developed dementia. Those who had anemia were 49 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who did not have anemia.

This isn't the first study to find a possible link between anemia and dementia, but it's one of the largest. The evidence is not conclusive, but it does suggest that anemia may be a risk factor for dementia; therefore, treating anemia may be one way to prevent or delay dementia.

 How is anemia treated?

Anemia, which is usually diagnosed by way of a blood test, can have several causes. However, most often anemia is related to iron or vitamin deficiencies.

If an iron deficiency is causing your anemia, your doctor may suggest changes in your diet and will likely prescribe iron supplement pills. If a vitamin deficiency is behind your anemia, your doctor may still suggest dietary changes, along with increased intakes of vitamin C, vitamin B12, and folic acid. Some individuals with anemia also require vitamin B12 injections, rather than pills.

Anemia may have still other causes. For instance, infections and reactions to medications can sometimes cause immune systems to attack and destroy red blood cells. 

Steroids and immune suppressors are often used to treat this kind of anemia, although in severe cases surgery may be necessary. Anemia can also result from medical or genetic conditions; these require specific treatments based on their causes.

Even if further research does not support the idea that anemia may increase the likelihood of dementia, it's a good idea to treat anemia anyway. No one wants to feel lethargic and rundown.


Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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October 7, 2013
This is a very excellent and informative article. Thank you.
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