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Anemia May Increase Dementia Risk

Update Date: Jul 31, 2013 03:59 PM EDT

People with anemia, or low levels of red blood cells, may be more likely to develop dementia, according to a new study.

"Anemia is common in the elderly and occurs in up to 23 percent of adults ages 65 and older," study author Dr. Kristine Yaffe, from the University of California - San Francisco and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said in a news release. "The condition has also been linked in studies to an increased risk of early death."

The latest study, published in the journal Neurology, involved 2,552 older adults aged 70 to 79. Participants were tested for anemia and also underwent memory and thinking tests over a period of 11 years.

Of all the participants, 393 had anemia at the start of the study, and 445 or about 18 percent of participants developed dementia during the course of the study.

The findings revealed that people who had anemia at the start of the study were 41 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who were not anemic.

Researchers noted that the link remained even after accounting for other factors like age, race, sex and education.

Study results revealed that of the 393 people with anemia, 89 people, or 23 percent develop dementia compared to 366 or 17 percent of the 2,159 people who did not have anemia.

"There are several explanations for why anemia may be linked to dementia. 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," Yaffe concluded.

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