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Anemia in the Elderly

Anemia of Chronic Disease

Anemia of chronic disease (or ACD) is the second most common anemia in elderly patients, after iron-deficiency anemia. ACD has been linked to chronic infections, autoimmune diseases, and chronic disorders such as chronic kidney disease, cancer, cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, severe trauma, and obesity.

Anemia in elderly patients may be caused by several factors and is often the result of a combination of chronic disease, blood loss, and/or vitamin deficiencies. A varying percentage (25% to 85%) of patients with ACD also suffer from true iron deficiency, which is often the result of unrelated gastrointestinal bleeding or blood loss from therapeutic procedures such as hemodialysis. In patients with true ACD, the severity of the anemia is connected to the severity of the underlying medical condition. When the underlying condition is treated, the ACD usually improves.

Chronic anemia can have adverse effects on elderly patients, including extreme fatigue, impaired healing, and increased risk of hospitalization and death. Chronic anemia in the elderly may also affect the heart. When the amount of tissue oxygen is reduced, a fast heart rate (or tachycardia) may follow, and in time, may cause the part of the heart that pumps most of the blood to become weak. Cardiac function may worsen in patients without heart disease when hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body's organs and tissues and transports carbon dioxide from the organs and tissues back to the lungs) levels fall below 7–10 g/dL (normal for men is 14-17.5 g/dL, normal for women is 12-16 g/dL). There are several videos available about the effects of anemia on the heart. I chose the video below from the World Heart Federation because both the language and visuals are easier to understand.

Iron deficiency in heart failure- World Heart Federation

Mercy Healthcare Services LLC, a San Diego-based Home Health and Home Care Agency, strives for our clients to achieve their best, optimum health and independence at home. With our recent blogs on Anemia in the Elderly, our goal is to inform our clients and their family members on the different types of anemia in the elderly and the common symptoms to watch out for. Patient safety is first, and when family members and the care staff know what to look for, our patients can get the immediate help they may need...better sooner than later!

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