The study,** published in the August 1, 2003 issue of the American Journal of Medicine, also found that older people who do not yet have anemia, but whose blood tests are just above the traditional cut off point for diagnosing the condition, are 1.5 times more likely to develop physical declines than those who have normal blood hemoglobin levels.
"This study suggests that even mild anemia is a risk factor linked to reduced ability of older people to function at their fullest potential," said Jack Guralnik, M.D., Ph.D., an NIA epidemiologist who co-authored the study. "Further research will tell us whether the treatment of anemia can prevent the progressive decline in function that eventually results in disability."
The investigators, led by Brenda Penninx, Ph.D., of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, followed a group of 1,146 people, ages 71 and older, for more than 4 years, assessing their ability to perform three physical tasks: standing balance, a timed 8-foot walk, and ability to rise from a chair. Each of these activities was scored on a 5-point scale (0= an inability to do the test; 4=top performance). These points were added together to create a 0 to 12 overall score. These scores were correlated with blood samples obtained from the participants. Anemia is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as hemoglobin levels below 12g/dL in women and below 13g/dL in men. For this study, Dr. Penninx classified men and women whose blood hemoglobin levels were within1g/dL of the WHO standard (
Contact: Doug Dollemore
NIH/National Institute on Aging