What’s anemia got to do with dementia?




A new study finds evidence that having anemia increases your risk for dementia.


As a part of healthy aging, we ought to care for our bodies as much as we care for our brain. There is a BIG connection between the two that we’re learning more about everyday.

Just this week I read some new research, which suggests that having anemia today might increase your risk for developing dementia in the future.  The study is called the Health, Aging and Body Composition study and it followed 2,552 men and women in their 70s for 11 years. Over this time, researchers found that the people who had anemia were more than 40% likely to have dementia over that 11-years compared to people who did not have anemia1.

But how do we know that anemia is directly causing the dementia? After all, dementia has many causes and risk factors like genetics, obesity, drug abuse, etc.  The truth is we don’t know for certain that anemia directly causes dementia. In the study, researchers did consider these other risk factors but still found anemia to be an “independent risk factor.” This means that even if anemia is your only risk factor for dementia you are more likely to get dementia than if you did not have anemia.

Anemia in older adults is pretty common and increases with age: someone who is 65-74 years old has an 8% of getting anemia but this quickly rises to 20% when they hit 852. Researchers acknowledge that it is not known if treating anemia will prevent dementia. But if you ask me, it certainly wouldn’t hurt!

It is safe to say that both you and I would rather not live with anemia or dementia. Just because we’re aging does not mean we should accept a lower quality of life. While some types of anemia cannot be prevented others can be.

Many types of nutrition-related anemias can be prevented eating a diet rich in iron, B12, folate and vitamin C. Here’s what you can add to your future shopping list3:

  • o Meats like beef, pork and chicken  (iron, B12)
  • o Beans and lentils (iron, folate)
  • o Breads and pastas (folate)
  • o Milk and cheeses (B12)
  • o Eggs (B12)
  • o Oranges, lemons, grapefruits (folate, vitamin C)
  • o Kale, collards, spinach and other dark leafy greens (folate, iron)
  • o Melons and berries (Vitamin C)

iron b12 folate foods







  1. http://www.agoritsaslaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Anemia.jpg
  2. http://700childrens.nationwidechildrens.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/anemia-770×420.jpg



  1. 1.    http://www.alzinfo.org/03/articles/diagnosis-and-causes/anemia-tied-dementia-risk
  2. 2.    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2572827/
  3. 3.    http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/basics/prevention/con-20026209

Be Ready, Be Healthy, Preventing B12 Deficiency

Be Ready, Be Healthy, Preventing B12 Deficiency

Why do I need vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is necessary for healthy function of nerve and blood cells.  Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to weakness and fatigue and more serious health problems like decreased mental function and pernicious anemia.

Why is this important to me?

Vitamin B12 deficiency becomes a problem as we age.  Often people don’t eat enough vitamin B12 in their diet. Another problem is decreased absorption of vitamin B12 in the gastrointestinal track.  Decreased absorption is common as we age and may also be caused by chronic liver disease and drug interactions (including some antibiotics, metformin and acid blockers).

What can I do to get more vitamin B12 in my diet?

You can improve your vitamin B12 intake by eating 2 or more foods listed in the table below. The major food sources of vitamin B12 are meat, seafood and fortified cereals.

Very High High Fairly High
Beef Liver Salmon Cod
Crab Meat Sardines Milk
All Bran cereal Ground beef Cottage cheese
Wheat bran flakes Tuna fish Beef frankfurter
Chicken Liver Plain yogurt Pork loin chops
Clam Soymilk, fortified Beef bologna
Oysters Shrimp Squid
Herring Halibut

Should I take a vitamin B12 supplement?

Although you may eat foods high in vitamin B12, you may not absorb enough B12 in the digestive track.  Because of this it may be a good idea to take a multivitamin that contains vitamin B12 or a vitamin B12 supplement.  Before taking any supplements, check with your doctor to make sure taking a supplement is right for you.

What do scientific studies say?

Studies show that vitamin B12 deficiency is common in older adults (20-30%) and should be addressed as soon as possible (2, 9).   One study found that vitamin B12 deficiency was linked to dementia (1).  Another study showed that vitamin B12 supplements could improve mental function in older adults (4).

Useful Handout

Check out this handout from the National Institutes of Health for some quick facts on vitamin B12, supplement recommendations and dietary sources.


The Bottom Line

Vitamin B12 deficiency becomes a problem as we age because we don’t get enough in our diets and it is not absorbed well in the digestive track.  Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, poor mental function and pernicious anemia.  You can improve you vitamin B12 intake by consuming foods high in vitamin B12 like seafood, meats and fortified grain cereals.  Supplements can also help increase your vitamin B12 intake.

Guest Blogger:  Jillian Mickens


1. Blundo, C., D. Marin, and M. Ricci “Vitamin B12 Deficiency Associated with Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia.” Neurol Sci 7 (2010): 1-5. Print.

2. Andres, E. et al “Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) Deficiency in Elderly Patients.” CMAJ 171.3 (2004): 251-259. Print

3. Nilsson-Ehle, H.. “Age-related Changes in Cobalamin (vitamin B12) Handling. Implications for Therapy.” Drugs Aging 12.4 (1998): 277-292. Print.

4. Bozoglu, E. et al “The Effects of Early Vitamin B12 Replacement Therapy on the Cognitive and Functional Status of Elderly Subjects.” Bulletin of Clinical Psychopharmacology 20.2 (2010): 120-124. Print.

5. Vitamin B12. MedlinePlus, 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 18 Oct. 2010. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/926.html&gt;.

6. Salmon image. < http://photos.demandstudios.com/12/2/fotolia_3617375_XS.jpg>

7. Cereal image. < http://mindbodyspirit.glam.com/articles/detail/are_you_low_on_vitamin_b12>

8. Steak image. < http://health.slides.kaboose.com/172-feel-good-foods-mood-boosters/11>

9. Bernstein, Melissa, and Ann S. Luggen. Nutrition in the Older Adult. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010. Print.