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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Anemia in Elderly Raises Risk of Falls

Risk Is High for Falls That Cause Injuries to Hip and Head

Measuring Trends

The researchers found there was a trend of increasing risk of falls with decreasing hemoglobin numbers in the elderly.

After adjusting for age, sex, other diseases, and medications, the researchers found that those with anemia had a 57% increased chance of an injurious fall if their hemoglobin was less than 10 g/dL compared with those who weren't anemic.

But those with anemia had even higher risks for falls that resulted in hip or head injuries. If the hemoglobin was 10 g/dL or less, elderly people had more than three times the chance of an injurious fall to the hip; they had almost twice the chance of a fall resulting in head injury compared with those who weren't anemic.

Woodman says after a fall, doctors need to include a hemoglobin study as part of the routine workup. "This needs to be assessed in an ongoing manner," he says. "Patients fall for a lot of different reasons, but if they do fall it puts them at risk for another fall."

The anemia isn't necessarily a result of a poor diet, but it could be the result of underlying disease, Woodman says. "There are a number of treatment options that can range from simple vitamins and iron pills to more specific therapy to treat any underlying disease."

The anemia could be due to iron deficiency that could mean a loss of blood, chronic kidney disease, or unexplained anemia, he says.

Woodman calls for further study to determine if correcting the anemia could reduce the number of injurious falls in these patients.

"The bottom line is that anemia in the elderly is very important," says George. "Yet anemia in the elderly is not on the radar of most physicians."

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