Older adults who are anemic have an increased risk of hospitalization and death, according to a report from Canada.
Anemia occurs when there is a drop in the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, because of a deficiency of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying component, hemoglobin. A lack of iron in the diet or blood loss, perhaps from internal bleeding, are two of the potential causes of anemia.
“The identification of anemia in older individuals is a flag for adverse health outcomes,” Dr. Bruce F. Culleton from the University of Calgary, Alberta, told Reuters Health. “Physicians should use their clinical and decision-making skills to search for reversible factors responsible for the anemia.”
As reported in the medical journal Blood, Culleton and his colleagues used information from Calgary databases to investigate whether there was a relationship between anemia and hospitalizations and death among more than 17,000 adults 66 years of age and older.
The group was followed from 2001 to the end of 2004, during which time there were 1983 deaths and 7278 first hospitalizations.
The overall death rate was 5-fold higher among individuals with anemia, the investigators report.
The findings were similar when only individuals over 80 years old were included in the analysis.
Anemia was also associated with nearly a 3-fold increased risk of hospitalization, the researchers note.
“These results should provide an impetus for future interventional trials of anemia correction in the elderly,” the investigators conclude.
SOURCE: Blood, May 15, 2006.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD