Anemia a New Risk Factor for Dementia, Study Says

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-08_d5fb70a40d.jpgiStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Dementia is a condition that affects more than five million Americans, yet so much about it remains a mystery. Now researchers are looking at a surprising potential link between this condition and anemia. After researchers at the University of California - San Francisco looked at more than 2,500 elderly people, the found that those with anemia -- who have decreased red blood cell levels -- were 41 percent more likely to develop the mind-robbing condition.

These findings, which are published in the journal Neurology, may be important since anemia is so common in older Americans, affecting up to one in five people age 65 and older. Researchers postulate that the increased risk of dementia could be related to lack of oxygen supplied to the brain -- which may lead to brain damage. Anemia is also a marker for poor health overall and can be associated with nutrient deficiencies such as iron and vitamin B12. Deficiencies of these nutrients are associated with declining mental abilities.

The exact connection between anemia and dementia is still unclear, since both can occur for a variety of reason in older people. Fortunately, anemia is usually diagnosed and treated, so it should always be considered in an older person with dementia.

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