Dutch researchers have confirmed initial speculations that anemic patients are more likely to develop dementia later on in life. Over the course of 12 years, the researchers studied 12,305 people without dementia to determine whether or not low hemoglobin levels, which causes anemia, were a factor in predicting that they would develop dementia later on.

The study’s subjects were broken up into five groups based on how high or low their hemoglobin levels were. During the course of the study, 1,520 of the subjects developed dementia and 1,194 of those developed Alzheimer’s disease. It was discovered that the group who had the lowest hemoglobin levels were at a 29 percent increased risk of developing dementia, and a 36 percent increase risk of developing Alzheimer’s specifically.

Anemia was not the only predictor in determining risk, however, as subjects with the highest hemoglobin levels were also found to be at a higher risk. That group was 20 percent more likely to develop any type of dementia and had a 22 percent increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s specifically.

Based on these findings, the study concluded that both very low levels of hemoglobin, anemia, and very high levels of hemoglobin can be a risk factor and predictor of the likelihood of developing dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease later on.

So, how can we use information like this to better care for our loved ones? Every new study that comes out is a new opportunity for us to remain hopeful and persistent in our search for a cure. Important research like this helps us understand what causes memory impairment in the first place and brings us closer to preventing it. Until that time, we can use data to better understand the experience of the memory impaired, and support and care for them accordingly by making sure we are dementia aware.

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