A new study, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has found an association between anemia and mild cognitive impairment.
Based on previous evidence of the association between anemia and cognitive impairment, a group of researchers from the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany, designed a study to further investigate this association. The researchers recruited over 4 000 participants and assessed both their hemoglobin levels and cognitive function. Participants with anemia were defined as having hemoglobin <13g/dl (men) or <12g/dl (women).
The researchers reported that participants who were anemic demonstrated lower scores for verbal memory and executive functioning tests. Participants who had anemia at the time of testing, in addition to 5-years before the study were found to have an associated mild cognitive impairment. The rate of mild cognitive impairment was found to occur nearly twice as often in patients with anemia compared to patients with hemoglobin within the normal range. This mild cognitive impairment is thought to represent an intermediate stage that occurs between normal cognitive ageing and the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers conclude that there is a measurable association between anemia and mild cognitive impairment. Clinically, this provides a potentially modifiable risk factor for mild cognitive impairment. The fact that this is a treatable risk factor which appears to occur in an intermediate stage, before onset of severe cognitive decline, provides potential for targeting and preventing dementia.
Dlugaj M, Winkler A, Weimar C, Dürig J, Broecker-Preuss M, Dragano N, Moebus S, Jöckel KH, Erbel R, Eisele L. “Anemia and mild cognitive impairment in the German general population.” J Alzheimers Dis. 2015 Nov 21. Epub ahead of print
Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD