Ten percent of all people 65 or older have anemia, and that's a serious problem.
The condition occurs when the total number of red blood cells, or hemoglobin concentrations, are too low. Hemoglobin, a protein, contains iron and transports vital oxygen throughout the body. Anemic seniors are twice as likely to be hospitalized for falls. There's also an association between anemia and reduced capacity for physical work and physical inactivity, even death.
But you can help fight anemia just by eating right. Medical researchers from the University of Arizona, Tucson, discovered that deficiencies in one or two nutrients were associated with a 21 percent increased risk of persistent anemia. Risk increased to 44 percent with deficiencies in three nutrients. The study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that the anemic women consumed less protein, foliate, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin C and red meat than their healthier counterparts. And taking a multivitamin or mineral supplements wasn't any help.
The lead researcher of the study, Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, R.D. an associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said that identifying anemia is a major issue for postmenopausal women. Thomson suggests a diet assessment should be included whenever a diagnosis of anemia is made. A change in nutrient intake may be all it takes to counter-act anemia.
A hemoglobin-healthy diet should include these foods: Red meat (beef, lamb, pork) is rich in iron that is easily absorbed. The darker the meat, the more iron it contains. Poultry contains some iron, and leg meat contains more iron than breast meat. Fish contains some iron too, especially oily fish and molluscs (mussels, etc.) Also of benefit: Green leafy vegetables, such as watercress, spinach and kale; whole grains, especially barley and oats;peas and beans; seeds and nuts, especially sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, pecans and almonds; egg yolks.
Caffeine inhibits iron absorption from food. Don't drink tea, coffee or cola drinks during meals. Caffeine inhibits iron absorption from food. Drink these liquids at least 2 hours before or after meals.
During an annual medical examination your physician should give you a comprehensive blood test that includes a measurement for anemia.
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