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Healthy notes: Anemia and dementia connection; breastfeeding on rise

Researchers find
anemia-dementia link

Anemia has previously been linked to a higher risk of early death in elderly people. A new study indicates that it might contribute to dementia, as well.

Anemia is a condition in which the body doesn’t have adequate red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissues. Anemia is common among seniors, occurring in as many as 23 percent of people 65 and older, according to the study, published online Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

The research, led by Dr. Kristine Yaffe at the University of California-San Francisco, analyzed 2,552 patients between the ages of 70 and 79. Of those, 393 had anemia. Of that subset, 89, or 22.6 percent, developed dementia. Among the non-anemic group, 17 percent developed dementia.

There are several explanations for the link, Yaffe said in a statement: Anemia might be a marker of poor overall health; or the lower oxygen levels produced by anemia could play a role. “Reductions in oxygen to the brain have been shown to reduce memory and thinking abilities and may contribute to damage to neurons,” Yaffe said.


More U.S. moms embrace breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is on the rise in the U.S., with 77 percent of new mothers nursing their newborns and nearly half sticking with it for at least six months, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card finds that the proportion of mothers who nurse their babies at all increased significantly between 2000 and 2010 — and that the duration of nursing increased steadily as well.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies consume nothing but breast milk for about six months, and that after they start eating solid foods they continue to nurse until their first birthday. Mothers seem to be following this advice: In 2010, 49 percent of mothers were breastfeeding at the six-month mark and 27 percent were still doing so after one year. In 2000, only 35 percent of moms nursed for six months and 16 percent nursed for a year.

The state most receptive to breastfeeding is Idaho, where 91.8 percent of new mothers nursed their babies for some period. That was followed by California at 91.6 percent, Oregon at 90.2 percent, Colorado at 89.1 percent and New Hampshire at 88. percent. By six months, the top breastfeeding states were Idaho (74.5 percent), California (71.3 percent), Oregon (71 percent), Hawaii (64.9 percent) and Utah (64.2 percent).

At the other end of the spectrum was Mississippi, where only 50.5 percent of new mothers nursed their babies for any length of time. Other states with consistently low figures include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana, according to the report card.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said nursing mothers helped their babies avoid short-term health problems like ear infections and gastrointestinal infections as well as chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity.For moms, nursing reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, Frieden said in a statement.


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