Linking Alzheimer’s Disease to Anemia: Is There a Causal Relationship?

Posted at May 21, 2014 | 5,080 Comments

If you are one of the 15 million caregivers supporting a loved one living with Alzheimer’s, it has no doubt crossed your mind that you might be at risk for developing the debilitating disease. Families that have experienced “the long goodbye” firsthand know what a terrible toll it takes. Caregivers, family members and researchers are all frustrated by how slow the progress in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s continues to be. There are, however, studies and clinical trials that do seem to be edging closer to understanding what some of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease might be. One area of interest to researchers is the role anemia might play.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Anemia

Anemia and Alzheimer's disease

In recent years, research seems to indicate that people who have anemia develop Alzheimer’s disease in greater numbers. This potential relationship has been of interest to researchers for some time. Because people who have anemia have fewer oxygen carrying red blood cells in their body, it stands to reason that they have less oxygen reaching their brain. One study published in Neurology magazine in 2013 dug deeper in to this theory.

Researchers followed 2,552 people who were dementia free at the start of the 11 year trial. 392 of them had anemia. Over the course of the trial, participants who had anemia were 40% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. While scientists recognize that is a fairly significant statistic, they aren’t yet ready to declare anemia a cause of Alzheimer’s. They think more work, including investigating the effect of using prevention tactics, needs to be done.

These preliminary findings give us one more reason for eating a well-balanced diet. Nutrition experts continue to rate the Dash Diet and the Mediterranean Diet as two healthy dietary programs to adopt. Both are rich in nutrients and minerals, while also helping to control blood pressure and cholesterol.

Talk with Your Physician

If you are concerned you are anemic and at risk, start by talking with your family physician and sharing your feelings. They can order the bloodwork needed to make that diagnosis. If you are anemic, they are also the best resource in determining how to best treat it.

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