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Anemia complicates recovery after a stroke, study says

Being anemic could triple an individual’s chances of dying in the year following a stroke, researchers said Thursday.

Both anemia, which is a lack of healthy red blood cells, and stroke are common conditions among the elderly. Anemia is known to worsen the outcomes of people who have heart attacks. But the new study shows stroke patients are at higher risk, too.

Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine looked at 3,750 men treated for an ischemic stroke. Compared with stroke survivors who were not anemic, men with severe anemia had a 3.5 times higher risk of dying while still in the hospital and a 2.5 times greater risk of dying within the first year. Even men with mild anemia were 1.5 times more likely to die within the first six to 12 months following the stroke.

It’s unclear why anemia complicates stroke recovery. It could be that anemia causes the brain’s blood vessels to respond abnormally to changes in blood pressure. Whatever the case, stroke patients should be checked for anemia and treated whenever possible.

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Researchers said they plan to study whether certain types of anemia are linked to a higher risk of death after stroke and whether women are affected in the same manner as men.

The study was presented Thursday at the American Stroke Assn.'s International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.

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