TUESDAY, Aug. 16, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Heart failure patients with anemia are at increased risk of dangerous complications and death, according to a new study.
An estimated 25 percent to 60 percent of heart failure patients suffer from anemia, defined as hemoglobin levels below 12 grams per deciliter (g/dL) of blood in women and less than 13 g/dL in men. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and boosts the blood's ability to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Reporting in the Aug. 16 issue of Circulation, the researchers found that heart failure patients with the largest average decreases in hemoglobin over twelve months (a decrease of 1.6 g/dL -- from 14.2 to 12.6 g/dL) had 47 percent more hospitalizations and 60 percent more deaths than patients with an insignificant change in hemoglobin (0.10 g/dL) over the past year.
The study also found that a healthy increase in hemoglobin over that same year was associated with a 22 percent lower death rate in heart failure patients with anemia. Heart failure patients without anemia experienced a 21 percent decline in the death rate, the researchers added.
"If you are a heart failure patient and your hemoglobin drops, then you are at greater risk of having problems. What remains unclear, however, is the ideal level of hemoglobin to be achieved in patients with heart failure," study author Dr. Inder S. Anand, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and director of the Heart Failure Program at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, said in a prepared statement.
It's also unclear whether anemia is a marker of heart failure severity, or if it actually worsens heart failure. Anemia can be treated with multivitamins, iron supplements or drugs.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart failure.