Link found between Alzheimer’s disease and anaemia
Date: 14 January 2014
CRC for Mental Health scientists have discovered a link between Alzheimer’s disease and anaemia, in a study which has the potential to improve the quality of life for people with these major diseases.
The study tested iron levels and related blood chemistry in over 1100 volunteers. The scientists compared results between groups who either had Alzheimer’s disease, had complaints about their memory and healthy volunteers. The scientists found that having Alzheimer’s disease caused a lowering of blood hemoglobin levels, and was a major risk factor for developing anaemia. It is already known that anaemia worsens cognitive decline.
“Alzheimer’s disease and anaemia are the two most common diagnoses in nursing homes, each diagnosis affecting more than half of nursing home residents” said Professor Ashley Bush, Chief Scientist at the CRC for Mental Health and professor at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.
“Anaemia is a deficiency in red blood cells and can be caused by a variety of factors such as poor diet or blood loss. Older people more frequently develop a type of anaemia that cannot be treated by any available drugs or supplements. We’ve shown that Alzheimer’s disease may be the explanation for this treatment-resistant anaemia, as it is itself a new cause for anaemia that cannot be explained by these other factors.”
“Common symptoms of anaemia include concentration difficulties, fatigue and mood changes. So the research suggests that Alzheimer’s disease lowers hemoglobin and leads to an increased risk for anaemia, which in turn can be having an affect on memory, concentration and learning.”
The research provides a new insight into the mysterious treatment-resistant anaemia of old age.
“The treatment resistant ’idiopathic’ anaemia of old age responds poorly to iron and other supplements, and to other drugs that boost hemoglobin. If we can understand why people with Alzheimer’s disease develop this unexplained form of anaemia, we may be able to target treatments for both disorders,” said co-author Dr Noel Faux.
“We think treating the anaemia will improve general wellbeing including levels of energy, fatigue and potentially some slowing of cognitive decline. This could have an enormous impact on our handling of two major disorders of retirement age.”
The researchers used data from the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study (AIBL), a longitudinal study which is following over 1100 volunteers aged 60 and over.
The results have been published in the prestigious journal Molecular Psychiatry. The full paper is available at http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp2013178a.html