Anemic Adults Have a Higher Risk of Death after Stroke

Written by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Anemic Adults Have a Higher Risk of Death after Stroke

Anemia is defined as a condition that develops when the blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. According to the stats, 3.5 million people in the United States have anemia which accounts for 1 in 77 people. Although the mild form of anemia doesn’t cause complications, if the problem is left untreated it can create various health problems. For example, the latest study discovered that anemic adults have a higher risk of death after suffering from a stroke.

What did Study Find?

Anemia is very prevalent in patients with acute stroke, and it’s also quite common in elderly adults. The team of researchers led by Phyo K. Myint of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland conducted the study to analyze the impact of hemoglobin levels and anemia on mortality in acute stroke. For the purpose of the study, scientists analyzed data from a cohort of 8013 stroke patients consecutively admitted over a period of 11 years from January 2003 to May 2015. The mean age of participants enrolled into this study was 77.

Findings from the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, showed that 24.5% of participants were anemic at the beginning of the study. The presence of anemia was associated with increased risk of mortality for up to one year after stroke. However, the link was less consistent in men with hemorrhagic stroke. Additionally, elevated levels of hemoglobin were associated with increased mortality, particularly in the first month after the stroke.

The likelihood of dying from ischemic stroke is about two times higher in anemic individuals compared to people without anemia, while the risk of hemorrhagic stroke is 1.5 times higher.

Scientists also pointed out that, anemia at admission of stroke patients was strongly linked with an increased risk of mortality in both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke sufferers. These findings call for targeted interventions in stroke patients with anemia to improve outcomes.

This isn’t the first study to find that anemia increases the risk of death after stroke. For example, researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine reviewed medical records of 3750 men treated for a first ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke.

Their findings were presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2012, and they showed that patients with severe anemia were 3.5 times more likely to die while still in the hospital and 2.5 times more likely to die within a year after suffering ischemic stroke.

You’re probably wondering why this happens; the scientists explain that anemia disables the brain’s blood vessels from responding properly to the change in blood pressure. Also, anemic patients have other conditions associated with a high risk of strokes such as heart disease or kidney disease.

Do I have anemia?

Anemia happens when:

  • The body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells
  • The body destroys red blood cells
  • Bleeding causes loss of red blood cells more quickly than the body can replace it

Symptoms and signs of anemia depend on the cause of condition, but in most cases they are:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Pale/yellowish skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath

Did you know?

Contrary to the popular belief, iron deficiency isn’t the only cause of anemia. In fact, a folate deficiency or lack of a Vitamin B12 can cause anemia just like a lack of iron does.


Anemia is a quite common condition that affects millions of people around the world. Although the mild form of anemia isn’t dangerous for one’s health, if you leave the condition untreated the problem can become worse and endanger your health. The latest study confirmed that anemic individuals have a higher death risk after stroke. The study is important because it promotes new approach towards the recovery of anemic patients to improve their odds.


Contributor : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

This Article Has Been Published on August 19, 2016 and Last Modified on August 11, 2018

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain Shams University. You can connect with him on Linkedin.

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