Anemia – a deficiency of red blood cells, and a condition often seen in the elderly has been tied to an increase in the risk for dementia. A large recent study which followed over 2500 healthy men and women with an average age of 76 was published online in the journal Neurology. At the beginning of the study 392 people were anemic, and by the end 455 had developed dementia. After adjusting for age, sex, depression, diabetes, education and several other variables, the researchers found that those people who were anemic at the beginning of the study had a 49% increased risk for dementia compared with those with normal blood counts.

While the authors acknowledge that their diagnoses of dementia may have been less sensitive than other studies using structured clinical interviews, their study did include a large sample, and a long follow-up which gives it strong credibility. “There are many causes of anemia that can be treated,” said the senior author, Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. “The big question is:  If you get treated, do you have a downstream prevention of dementia? We don’t know, but that would be the implication.”     8/2/13


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