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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Anemia Linked to Dementia Among Seniors: 09/23/2013

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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Older adults with anemia may have an increased risk of dementia, suggests a comprehensive study recently published in Neurology.

The eleven year, prospective study of 2,552 seniors (who entered the research without dementia in their 70s) found those later diagnosed with anemia had a 41 percent higher risk of dementia compared to anemia-free participants. The study also found participants who entered the study with anemia experienced a 49 percent increased risk of dementia compared to enrollees without anemia.

The findings were derived from a larger assessment of senior health, called the Health ABC Study, which included periodic tests of mental functioning and red blood cell levels. The average age was about 75 when participants (mostly from Memphis and Pittsburgh) entered the study starting in 1997.

The authors explain the current study is the first to assess seniors with anemia and dementia for an extended period of time and also statistically control (or rule out) many other factors associated with a risk of developing dementia. For example, the association between anemia and risk of dementia was significant after the authors controlled for some demographic measures (such as age, race, gender, and education) as well as a few health predictors (such as diabetes and depression).

The study’s nine authors note about 23 percent of American seniors have anemia. The authors add while the study demonstrates a significant association between anemia and dementia risk, the research did not assess what physiological mechanisms underlie a possible relationship.

The study’s senior author told Health Day (and we quote): ‘we think the association is about low oxygen being carried to the brain’ (end of quote).

MedlinePlus.gov’s anemia health topic page explains anemia occurs when a person has lower than normal red blood cell levels. MedlinePlus.gov’s anemia health topic page adds anemia results from a lack of red blood cell production, extensive blood loss, or high rates of red blood cell destruction. Regardless of the cause, the result of anemia is a person’s blood carries a reduced level of oxygen to the rest of the body.

MedlinePlus.gov’s anemia health topic page provides comprehensive information about anemia’s diagnosis and treatment. An overview of anemia from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is available in the ‘start here’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s anemia health topic page.

A website that addresses anemia among seniors is available in the ‘seniors’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s anemia health topic page. Anemia additionally occurs among children and teenagers --and there are special sections with tips for both groups within MedlinePlus.gov’s anemia health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s anemia health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about anemia as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s anemia health topic page, type ‘anemia’  that’s A…N…E…M…I…A in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘anemia (National Library of Medicine).’ MedlinePlus.gov additionally features health topic pages on iron, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.    

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