Anemia: A risk factor for independence
Elderly people with anemia have a higher risk of disability than non-anemic persons. They also have lower muscle strength and poorer physical function. Factors that, taken together, may threaten their independence.
Physical performance was measured in 1156 elderly persons living in Italy by testing standing balance, walking speed and ability to rise from a chair. Muscle strength in the hands and knees was also measured. To assess disability, the participants were asked if they needed help with six basic daily activities such as eating, bathing and dressing, and eight other activities such as shopping and doing light housework.
The results showed that anemic persons have significantly lower muscle strength than non-anemic persons. On the physical performance test they scored on average one point lower on a twelve-point scale. Earlier research has shown that one point on this test is quite large and is associated with increased risk of disability, hospitalization and mortality. Anemic persons also reported nearly twice as many disabilities compared to non-anemic persons.
The results were not simply consequences of disease, age or body mass index since the researchers adjusted for these and a number of other factors.
Penninx, B. W. J. H. et a. Anemia is associated with disability and decreased physical performance and muscle strength in the elderly. J Am Geriatr Soc 2004,52;719–724
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