Anemia, hemoglobin concentration and cognitive function in the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India-Harmonized Diagnostic Assessment of Dementia (LASI-DAD) and the Health and Retirement Study

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Jan 23:2024.01.22.24301583. doi: 10.1101/2024.01.22.24301583.


Background: In India, anemia is widely researched in children and women of reproductive age, however, studies in older populations are lacking. Given the adverse effect of anemia on cognitive function and dementia this older population group warrants further study. The Longitudinal Ageing Study in India - Harmonized Diagnostic Assessment of Dementia (LASI-DAD) dataset contains detailed measures to allow a better understanding of anaemia as a potential risk factor for dementia.

Method: 2,758 respondents from the LASI-DAD cohort, aged 60 or older, had a complete blood count measured from venous blood as well as cognitive function tests including episodic memory, executive function and verbal fluency. Linear regression was used to test the associations between blood measures (including anemia and hemoglobin concentration (g/dL)) with 11 cognitive domains. All models were adjusted for age and gender with the full model containing adjustments for rural location, years of education, smoking, region, BMI and population weights.Results from LASI-DAD were validated using the USA-based Health and Retirement Study (HRS) cohort (n=5720) to replicate associations between blood cell measures and global cognition.

Results: In LASI-DAD, we showed an association between anemia and poor memory (p=0.0054). We found a positive association between hemoglobin concentration and ten cognitive domains tested (β=0.041-0.071, p<0.05). The strongest association with hemoglobin was identified for memory-based tests (immediate episodic, delayed episodic and broad domain memory, β=0.061-0.071, p<0.005). Positive associations were also shown between the general cognitive score and the other red blood count tests including mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC, β=0.06, p=0.0001) and red cell distribution width (RDW, β =-0.11, p<0.0001). In the HRS cohort, positive associations were replicated between general cognitive score and other blood count tests (Red Blood Cell, MCHC and RDW, p<0.05).

Conclusion: We have established in a large South Asian population that low hemoglobin and anaemia are associated with low cognitive function, therefore indicating that anaemia could be an important modifiable risk factor. We have validated this result in an external cohort demonstrating both the variability of this risk factor cross-nationally and its generalizable association with cognitive outcomes.

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