Association Found Between Alzheimer's and Anemia

Cause for link uncertain, more study needed, researchers say

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TUESDAY, July 13, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Alzheimer's disease may be linked to an increased risk of anemia, new study findings suggest.

Australian researchers analyzed hemoglobin, iron and other blood-based measurements in 211 Alzheimer's patients, 133 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and 768 healthy people. They compared these measurements to tests of participants' short- and long-term memory and cognitive abilities.

Compared to the healthy people, Alzheimer's patients had significantly lower levels of hemoglobin, mean cell hemoglobin concentration, and packed cell volume, the investigators found. The Alzheimer's patients also had a significantly higher erythrocyte sedimentation rate, a possible sign of anemia.

Participants with anemia were 2.56 times more likely to have Alzheimer's disease, while those with Alzheimer's were 2.61 times more likely to be anemic, the researchers noted in a news release from the Alzheimer's Association.

"In our population, we found that people with Alzheimer's disease were more likely to be anemic, and this was not explained by dietary iron deficiency. This suggests that hemoglobin production is deficient in Alzheimer's patients," Noel Faux, of the Mental Health Research Institute in Parkville, Australia, explained in the news release.

"Alzheimer's had not previously been recognized as a risk factor for anemia, which is a common clinical problem for the elderly and can contribute to problems such as heart failure and renal failure. The cause of anemia in Alzheimer's is still uncertain, but we speculate that Alzheimer's is a disease that affects both brain and blood. We are currently investigating this intriguing possibility," Faux added.

The study was slated to be presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, in Honolulu.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about anemia.

SOURCE: Alzheimer's Association, news release, July 13, 2010

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