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Neuroepidemiology 2009;32:40–46

Relation of Hemoglobin to Level of Cognitive Function in Older Persons

Shah R.C.a, d · Wilson R.S.a, c, e · Tang Y.b, f · Dong X.f · Murray A.g · Bennett D.A.a, c
aRush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, bRush Institute for Healthy Aging and Departments of cNeurological Sciences, dFamily Medicine, ePsychology and fInternal Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Ill., and gDepartment of Medicine, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, Minn., USA
email Corresponding Author

 goto top of outline Key Words

  • Hemoglobin
  • Anemia
  • Cognition
  • Elderly
  • Gender
  • Cross-sectional study

 goto top of outline Abstract

Background: While decreased hemoglobin concentration is common in the elderly, the relationship of the entire range of hemoglobin concentrations with cognitive function is not well understood. Methods: Cross-sectional analyses were conducted utilizing data from community-dwelling, older persons participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Proximate to first available hemoglobin measurement, 21 cognitive tests were administered to measure global cognitive function along with semantic memory, episodic memory, working memory, perceptual speed and visuospatial abilities. Results: For 793 participants without clinical dementia, stroke or Parkinson’s disease, the mean age was 81.0 years (SD = 7.2); 595 (75%) were women, and 94% were white. The mean hemoglobin concentration was 13.3 g/dl (SD = 1.3). 17% of the cohort had anemia. Using linear regression models adjusted for age, education, gender, body mass index, mean corpuscular volume and glomerular filtration rate, both low and high hemoglobin levels were associated with lower global cognitive function (parameter estimate = –0.015, SE = 0.007, p = 0.019). Low and high hemoglobin levels were associated with worse performance on semantic memory (parameter estimate = –0.201, SE = 0.008, p = 0.010) and perceptual speed (parameter estimate = –0.030, SE = 0.010, p = 0.004), but not the other specific cognitive functions. Conclusions: Low and high hemoglobin concentrations in older persons are associated with a lower level of cognitive function in old age, particularly in semantic memory and perceptual speed.

Copyright © 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel

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    External Resources

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 goto top of outline Author Contacts

Dr. Raj C. Shah
Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center
600 South Paulina, Room 1038
Chicago, IL 60612 (USA)
Tel. +1 312 563 2902, Fax +1 312 563 4154, E-Mail

 goto top of outline Article Information

Received: March 6, 2008
Accepted: August 19, 2008
Published online: November 12, 2008
Number of Print Pages : 7
Number of Figures : 1, Number of Tables : 3, Number of References : 38

 goto top of outline Publication Details


Vol. 32, No. 1, Year 2009 (Cover Date: December 2008)

Journal Editor: Feigin V.L. (Auckland), Logroscino G. (Boston, MA), Hofman A. (Rotterdam), Donnan G. (Heidelberg Heights, Vic.)
ISSN: 0251–5350 (Print), eISSN: 1423–0208 (Online)

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