Age-related anemia hastens death

From San Diego, at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology

People whose blood concentrations of hemoglobin decrease as they age are at elevated risk for serious ailments and early death, researchers have found.

Anemia, an inadequate supply of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, is rare among young and middle-age people and generally develops from a nutritional deficiency or an identifiable health problem, such as a cancer. But previous research suggested that anemia affects about one-eighth of people over age 70. Many of these anemia sufferers have hemoglobin concentrations just shy of the normal range and are never diagnosed with the condition.

To probe the health consequences of age-related anemia, Brenda Penninx of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and her colleagues analyzed hemoglobin concentrations in 3,607 people older than 70 years.

During about 4 years of follow-up, 66 percent of the people with anemia were hospitalized at least once, and 37 percent died. Among people without anemia, those rates were 55 and 22 percent, respectively. Having hemoglobin concentrations at the low end of the normal range also predisposed people to higher hospitalization and death rates, Penninx reports.


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