"Our work supports the notion that mild anaemia may be an independent risk factor for so-called executive-function impairment in older adults," says Paulo Chaves, M.D., P.h.D., an assistant professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study. "If further studies confirm that's true, this could mean that correction of anaemia in these patients might offer a chance to prevent such a cognitive decline."

"Executive function impairment, which happens often before memory loss occurs, may happen early on in the process of becoming unable to carry on with instrumental day-to-day living activities, such as shopping, cooking, taking medications, paying bills, walking, etc.," says Chaves.

Chaves and his team gave three psychological tests commonly used to evaluate executive function to 364 women, all between 70 and 80 years old, who were living in Baltimore, Md. Approximately 10 percent had anaemia, which was of mild intensity.

Some 15 percent of those with the worst results on all three of the tests were anaemic, compared to only 3 percent who scored best. Those with anaemia were four to five times more likely to perform worst on the executive function tests, compared to those with normal blood hemoglobin, after taking into account the effect of other factors that affect cognition, such as age, education and existing diseases.

"These preliminary results don't prove that anaemia causes impaired executive function, nor indicate that treatment of anaemia would necessarily lead to better executive function," says Chaves. "However, they are compelling enough to serve as a roadmap for continued research."

MEDICA.de; Source: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions