Anemia in the elderly – part 1
Anemia in the elderly is currently an important problem of public health, since it is a common finding in this vulnerable group of the population and its incidence increases with age. The incidence of anemia in the elderly led to the hypothesis that this could be a normal consequence of aging. However, it should not be considered as a natural result of old age, since in most cases is due to a pathological cause.
Impact of anemia in the elderly
Several studies have shown that elderly patients with anemia have reduced physical ability and strength. Additionally, anemia appears to increase the mortality in elderly patients with other diseases, such as heart failure. The correction of anemia can help to improve the functioning of vital organs and, consequently, the quality of life.
Causes of anemia in the elderly
The causes of anemia in the elderly fall into three categories, with roughly equal frequency between them:
- Anemia from blood loss / lack of dietary factors (34%)
- Anemia associated with chronic inflammatory disease or chronic renal failure (32%)
- “Unexplained” anemia (34%)
Anemia from blood loss / lack of dietary factors (iron, vitamin B12, folic acid)
Iron deficiency anemia appears to be the most frequent anemia in the elderly, making it important to identify and diagnose. The diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia in this group of patients is difficult because of frequent chronic disease coexistence. Lack of vitamin B12 based on biochemical tests are common in the elderly, but not the anemia due to lack of it. Thus, low levels of vitamin B12 is 10-15% of the elderly, but it is estimated that only 1-2% of them develop anemia. The elderly are less exposed to folic acid deficiency, compared with younger subjects, since they often take multivitamins. So megaloblastic anemia due to folate deficiency is rare in the elderly, and when it occurs, is often due to alcohol abuse.
Chronic disease Anemia
This group includes patients with chronic inflammatory disease, chronic renal failure and patients who have both. Patients with neoplastic diseases, autoimmune diseases, diabetes and heart failure are also included.
…this article is provided by www.tiptonhomecare.co.uk