People over age 65 have increased levels of anemia. Symptoms can be easy to mistake for typical signs of aging so diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent serious complications.

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Anemia is a health condition that develops when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells in your body. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to your muscles and tissues. When this doesn’t happen, it can leave you feeling weak and dizzy.

If you are over the age of 65, you’re at especially high risk for developing anemia and the complications that come from having anemia.

Anemia is very treatable. Dietary changes and supplements often help, and there is a wide range of options.

People over age 65 are one of the groups at high risk for anemia. This can be related to diet or to chronic health conditions.

Chronic health conditions are another risk factor for anemia, and most people over 65 years old have at least one chronic health condition. In fact, according to 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 64% of Americans over age 65 have two or more chronic health conditions.

Anemia often leads to weakness and fatigue. When older adults have these symptoms, it can contribute to an overall health decline.

People with anemia might become less physically active. This can make chronic health conditions worse, and it can lead to a loss of muscle tone, balance, and strength.

The symptoms of anemia can seem nonspecific and vague. They can be easily confused with feeling “a little run down” or even with simply getting older. However, it’s important not to ignore the symptoms of anemia.

Speak with your doctor or another healthcare professional to see what might be causing your symptoms, especially if they have lingered for more than a week or so.

Possible symptoms of anemia include:

There are many causes of anemia in older adults. Often, anemia is the result of chronic conditions, medications, or nutritional deficiencies.

Common causes include:

Older adults have a higher risk of developing anemia due to age. But they may also have other risk factors.

Risk factors include:

Treatment for anemia depends on the underlying cause of anemia.

For instance, if anemia is caused by a nutritional deficiency, your doctor might recommend dietary changes or supplements. If amenia is caused by an ulcer, treating the ulcer will be part of anemia treatment.

Other possible treatments include:

The outlook for anemia will vary depending on the cause of the anemia and how severe it is. However, most cases of anemia can be resolved or managed with diet and medications.

It’s best to discuss your specific situation with your doctor to get an understanding of how long your anemia could last.

Anemia is typically diagnosed during a standard medical appointment.

The most common test for anemia is a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC). This test measures white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in your blood. It can confirm an anemia diagnosis. If it does, you might have additional blood tests to help find the cause of anemia.

Since anemia is often caused by health conditions, it’s not always possible to prevent it. However, you can take steps to make sure your body has enough nutrients.

You can do this by eating iron-rich foods such as meats, lentils, dark green vegetables, and beans, as well as foods high in folates such as bread, pasta, rice, and fruits.

It’s also a great idea to get more vitamin B-12 from meat and dairy products and vitamin C from foods such as citrus fruits, peppers, and melons.

You can learn more about anemia in older adults by reading the answers to some common questions.

What can happen if anemia in seniors isn’t treated?

When anemia is left untreated, it can lead to problems such as:

  • severe fatigue
  • heart-related issues
  • an increased risk of death

Can anemia come back?

Yes, anemia can reoccur. Talk with your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of developing anemia again.

Do younger people ever get anemia?

Anyone can get anemia. While being over age 65 is a risk factor, people of any age can develop anemia.

People over age 65 are at risk for anemia. People in this age group often have other risk factors as well, such as multiple chronic health conditions.

Anemia in seniors can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and irritability. Although it can be easy for these symptoms to go unnoticed, it’s important to get them diagnosed as soon as possible.

Complications of anemia can include an increased risk of death, but treatment can prevent compilations.