July 28, 2009

Anemia Risk In Elderly

Anemia in people aged 85 and older appears to be associated with an increased risk of death, according to a new study in the Netherlands that looked at 562 people aged 85 years and followed them until age 90.

Anemia in elderly people is generally associated with increased death, decreased mobility, cognitive impairment, depression, falls and fractures, hospital admission and diminished quality of life. It can significantly affect health care needs and costs in aging Western societies.
In the study group, the risk of death was similar among men and women, and among people in long-term care facilities and the community.

"We found a strong, independent association between prevalent anemia in participants at age 85 years and risk of death," Wendy den Elzen of the Leiden University Medical Center and coauthors were quoted as saying, confirming results of previous studies of people in the Netherlands and North America. "We found that incident anemia in participants beyond the age of 85 years had an even stronger impact on mortality than prevalent anemia at age 85."

In a related commentary, Dr. Mark Clarfield of Ben-Gurion University and Dr. Ora Paltiel of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Israel wrote, "For unexplained anemia in elderly patients, we may never be able to disentangle whether the underlying cause or the anemia is responsible for death." They emphasize the need to prove that routinely correcting unexplained anemia is more beneficial than harmful.


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