Objective: To determine whether anemia is associated with incident dementia in older adults.
Methods: We studied 2,552 older adults (mean age 76.1 years; 38.9% black; 51.8% female) participating in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition study and free of dementia at baseline. We defined anemia using WHO criteria (hemoglobin concentration <13 g/dL for men and <12 g/dL for women). Dementia diagnosis was determined by dementia medication use, hospital records, or a change in modified mini-mental state (3MS) score of more than 1.5 SD from mean. Discrete time Cox proportional hazard regression models were used to examine the hazard for developing dementia associated with anemia.
Results: Of 2,552 participants, 393 (15.4%) older adults had anemia at baseline [corrected]. Over 11 years of follow-up, 455 (17.8%) participants developed dementia. In the unadjusted model, those with baseline anemia had an increased risk of dementia (23% vs. 17%, hazard ratio = 1.64; 95% confidence interval 1.30, 2.07) compared to those without anemia. The association remained significant after adjusting for demographics, APOE ε4, baseline 3MS score, comorbidities, and renal function. Additional adjustment for other anemia measures (mean corpuscular volume, red cell distribution width), erythropoietin, and C-reactive protein did not appreciably change the results. There was no interaction by sex and race on risk of developing dementia.
Conclusion: Among older adults, anemia is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. Findings suggest that further study of anemia as a risk factor for dementia and a target for intervention for cognitive health is warranted.