Anemia in the Older Adult: 10 Common Causes & What to Ask
Anemia affects about 10% of people over 65, and it’s even more common in the elderly. Anemia can range from a life-threatening emergency to a mild chronic problem, and misunderstanding it can lead to unnecessary worry or inappropriate treatment.
Defining and detecting anemia
Anemia is defined as a lower-than-normal count of red blood cells circulating in the blood, which is always counted as part of a “Complete Blood Count” (CBC) test. Anemia can be detected by a low hemoglobin level, which is below normal.
Symptoms of anemia
A hemoglobin level of 6.5 to 7.9 gm/dL is considered “severe” anemia, and it is very common for mild anemia to have a hemoglobin level that is not far below normal. The human body adapts to lower hemoglobin levels after a few weeks or months.
The most common causes of anemia in aging adults
Anemia occurs when something goes wrong with the production and/or loss of red blood cells. There are several common causes of low hemoglobin, ranging from bone marrow problems to chronic bleeding in the colon. Blood loss causes anemia because red blood cells leave the bloodstream. Slow bleeds can worsen anemia by causing an iron deficiency, as well.
How doctors evaluate anemia
Follow-up tests are important to determine what’s causing anemia, such as the reticulocyte count, which indicates whether the bone marrow is trying to compensate for anemia by producing extra red blood cells. Research suggests that transfusing mild to moderate anemia isn’t beneficial.
What to ask the doctor about anemia
Use this free PDF to ensure you ask key questions about your anemia condition, such as what was done to diagnose the cause and what the treatment plan is. Also, request and keep copies of your lab results, which will help you and your doctors understand your previous labs related to anemia.
Avoiding common pitfalls related to anemia and iron
Iron deficiency anemia is a common diagnosis in older adults, but doctors should check for other causes of anemia, such as slow blood loss. Iron supplements can be constipating for older adults, so use them only if iron deficiency has been confirmed.
The most important take home points on anemia in older adults
If you are diagnosed with anemia or notice a lower than normal hemoglobin on your lab report, ask questions to better understand your anemia. Do you have any questions about anemia in older adults? Please post them below.
How is anemia treated in elderly?
Anemia treatment for the elderly
- Iron supplementation. Ferrous sulfate. Ferrous gluconate. Ferrous fumarate. Polysaccharide iron.
- B12 supplementation.
- Folate supplementation.
- Dietary considerations. Seafood. Red meats. Beans and whole grains. Vegetables.
How serious is anemia in the elderly?
The researchers also discovered that elderly people with anemia had a 150% higher risk of hospitalization and a 200% higher risk of being admitted to a nursing home, and that people with borderline anemia had a 1.5 times higher risk than those who were not anemic.
What causes anemia in old age?
Chronic diseases (such as ulcers, liver or kidney disease, hypothyroidism, inflammation of the stomach or intestines, and cancer) and iron deficiency are the two most common causes of anemia; vitamin B12 or folate deficiencies are less common. Certain medications can also cause anemia.
Can anemia be fatal in elderly?
According to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, anemia in very elderly people aged 85 and older is linked to an increased risk of death.
What drink is high in iron?
Prunes are a good source of energy that don’t cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, and prune juice is made from dried plums, or prunes, which contain many nutrients that can contribute to good health. Half cup of prune juice contains 3 mg or 17% iron.
What foods should you avoid if you have anemia?
Foods to stay away from
- Foods containing tannins, such as grapes, corn, and sorghum.
- foods containing phytates or phytic acid, such as brown rice and whole-grain wheat products.
- foods containing oxalic acid, such as peanuts, parsley, and chocolate.
What is the fastest way to cure anemia?
Treatment for iron deficiency anemia includes:
- Foods high in iron and foods that help your body absorb iron (like foods with Vitamin C).
- Iron given through an intravenous (IV) infusion. (This is often a choice if you have chronic kidney disease, or CKD.) Red blood cell transfusions.
What level of anemia is severe?
Hb between 10 and less than 10 g/dL is considered mild anemia; Hb between 8 and less than 10 g/dL is considered moderate anemia; Hb below 8 g/dL is considered severe anemia; grade 4, life-threatening anemia; and grade 5 is death (Table).
Why would an elderly person need a blood transfusion?
If you have a severe infection or liver disease that prevents your body from properly producing blood or some parts of blood, you may need a blood transfusion. If you have an illness that causes anemia, such as kidney disease or cancer, you may need a blood transfusion. Medicines or radiation used to treat a medical condition can also cause anemia.
Are bananas good for anemia?
Because bananas are high in iron, they can help fight anemia by stimulating the production of haemoglobin in the blood. Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood decreases, causing fatigue, paleness, and shortness of breath.
What are the 3 stages of iron deficiency?
Iron Deficiency In Three Stages
- Part 1 u2013 The Different Stages Of Iron Deficiency.
- Stage 1 u2013 Storage Depletion u2013 Lower than expected blood ferritin levels.
- Stage 2 u2013 Mild Deficiency u2013 Transport iron (also known as transferrin) decreases during the second stage of iron deficiency.
What causes iron deficiency in older females?
Iron deficiency is the second most common cause of anemia in the elderly, with blood loss, nutritional deficiencies, medications, cancer therapies, and poor absorption being the most common causes.
How serious is being anemic?
Anemia is a condition in which your body lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. It can be temporary or long-term (chronic), and it can be mild or serious and life-threatening.
When should you go to the hospital for anemia?
If you develop serious symptoms like difficulty breathing or chest pains, call 911 right away, and if you’re being treated for iron deficiency anemia but have persistent or recurrent mild symptoms, call 911 right away.
What is normal hemoglobin for elderly?
By convention, clinicians use the hemoglobin level and hematocrit, rather than the red blood cell count, to detect anemia. A u201cnormalu201d hemoglobin level for men is 14-17 gm/dL, and 12-15 gm/dL for women; however, different laboratories may define the normal range differently.