"Our results suggest that anemia is a risk factor for disability, poor physical function and low muscle strength all which can threaten the independence of older adults," said Brenda Penninx, Ph.D., lead researcher. "Physicians should be aware of their older patients' anemia status, even if there is no apparent disease."
Anemia, which is a reduced level of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, affects about 13 percent of people over age 70. It has a variety of causes, from iron or vitamin B-12 deficiencies to chronic diseases such as cancer or liver disease. In older adults, about 20 percent of 30 percent of cases have no known cause.
The researchers used data from the InCHIANTI Study, a study of 1,156 older adults living in the Chianti area of Italy that was conducted by the Italian National Research Council of Aging. The research measured physical performance using tests of standing balance, walking speed and ability to rise from a chair. Previous studies illustrated that these tests can predict the likelihood of hospitalization and later disability, nursing home admission, mortality. Handgrip and knee muscle strength were also measured.
Disability was assessed by asking participants whether they needed help with six basic activities of daily living (eating, bathing, dressing, transferring from bed to chair, using the toilet and walking across a small room), and eight other activities, including shopping, doing light housework, and preparing meals.
"Participants with anemia reported an average of 1.7 disabilities, compared to an average of 1.0 for the non-anemic subjects," said Penninx, who was an associate professor at W
Contact: Karen Richardson or Shannon Koontz
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center