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Risk Factors for Nutritional Anemia

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop a nutritional anemia with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing a nutritional anemia. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Gender and Age

Women between puberty and menopause are at higher risk for iron deficiency anemia than men and women of other age groups. Pregnancy also places extra iron demands on women. A folic acid supplement is usually included in a standard prenatal vitamin. Check with your doctor. The supplement is recommended for every pregnant woman, as much to prevent neural tube defects in the baby as to guard against folic acid anemia in the mom. Infants and young children are at risk of iron deficiency anemia.

Medications

Low levels of bleeding from the stomach are a side effect of aspirin and other pain medications like ibuprofen and naproxen, particularly if taken regularly for chronic conditions such as arthritis. Medications used to reduce stomach acid (especially “proton pump inhibitors”) may decrease the absorption of iron. Other medications, such as the anti-folate drug, methotrexate, and some antibiotics, can also affect your risk of developing anemia.

Diet

Unusually poor diets, such as in advanced alcoholics, can increase the risk of folic acid deficiency anemia. In addition, excess consumption of tea or foods made from wheat may decrease the absorption of iron. The diets of infants and young children can be deficient in iron.

Medical Conditions

Cancers, especially colon cancer, can cause slow leaking of blood within the body, which increases your risk of developing anemia. Many stomach and intestinal disorders may interfere with the absorption of iron, B 12, or folate. Lead poisoning in adults or children can also have significant effects on body iron metabolism.

Revision Information

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov.

  • Iron fortification of infant formulas. American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/104/1/119. Accessed February 2007.

  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov.