Anemia in Elderly Adults: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Elderly women suffering from anemia

For men and women over the age of 65, low bodily iron levels are a serious concern and a common occurrence due to the natural process of aging. According to the journal, American Family Physician, around 80 percent of elderly adults have anemia, a condition most commonly caused by low iron intake and chronic disease.

Although the prevalence of anemia tends to increase with age, it should not be accepted as an inevitable condition that must simply be lived with.

To help treat and prevent anemia in elderly men and women, here is some information about the most common causes and symptoms that occur in aging bodies.

What Causes Anemia in Elderly People?

While the condition of anemia is caused by a low red blood cell count, it’s important to determine why this red blood cell count is getting low. Either an elderly adult’s body isn’t producing enough red blood cells, or it is abnormally losing red blood cells on a regular basis.

If low production is to blame, this could be caused by an elderly adult not eating enough iron-rich foods, due to chemotherapy treatments for cancer, lack of vitamin B12 in the diet, or chronic inflammation. But if the issue is with red blood cells being lost, the causes of anemia in the elderly may include chronic bleeding in the intestines, an injury to the body, or frequent blood draws during hospitalizations.

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Risk Factors for Anemia in Elderly Adults

Risk factors that make elderly individuals more prone to developing anemia include not eating a healthy and well-balanced diet on a regular basis. It may be more difficult for older adults to prepare healthy meals due to arthritis in the hands or being unable to drive oneself to the grocery store for ingredients. A diet lacking in iron, vitamin B12, and folate puts elderly adults at a great risk of anemia. Intestinal disorders, kidney failure, cancer, and family history are also risk factors that may apply to seniors with anemia.

Symptoms of Anemia in Seniors

The symptoms of anemia in seniors are similar to the symptoms experienced in other age groups as well, but they may be masked by other chronic conditions or by medications that a senior is taking. Unexplained symptoms to look out for are fatigue, weakness, high heartrate, shortness of breath, pale skin, and headaches.

Treatment for Anemia in Elderly Adults

It is very important for seniors to discuss their current medications with a doctor before self-treating a condition of suspected anemia. If adverse medication interactions are unlikely, a doctor may recommend that a senior take oral iron supplements, such as Fergon. Elderly adults often benefit by taking iron supplements with food to lessen the risk of stomach irritation, nausea, and diarrhea. If anemia is caused by a chronic disease, then the best way to treat the anemia is to manage the chronic disease as effectively as possible.

Elderly Anemia Prevention Tips

Elderly adults can prevent many instances of anemia by eating a healthy diet full of iron-rich foods, such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, fresh fruits, and whole grains. Older adults should also have their iron levels checked at least once per year at an annual physical with their doctors. Since anemia is linked to overall declines in elderly health, it is very important to be mindful about unexplained symptoms that could be caused by low iron and treated accordingly and early in their progression.

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