Date Published: 
Monday, 10 June, 2013

Iron deficiency is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease mortality in the elderly, Taiwanese study indicates

Iron-deficient elderly individuals living in long-term care facilities have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, a new study finds. Severity of iron deficiency was positively correlated with each outcome, indicating that careful monitoring and treatment of iron deficiency in this population could improve survival.

The longitudinal, observational study included 336 participants aged 65 years or older and residing in long-term care facilities in Taiwan. At baseline, 169 participants (50%) had either mild (40 mg/dL ≤ serum iron < 60 mg/dL; n=97) or severe (serum iron <40 mg/dL; n=72) iron deficiency. After a five-year follow-up period, 210 participants had died, with 62 reported as due to cardiovascular disease.

After adjusting for markers of confounding factors, including anaemia-, inflammation- and infection-related mortality, the relative risk of death from cardiovascular disease was 2.77 (95% CI:1.28–5.99) for severely iron-deficient participants and 1.08 (0.51–2.29) for mildly iron-deficient participants compared with those with normal serum iron levels. Similarly, the relative risk of all-cause mortality was 1.96 (1.26–3.04) and 1.63 (1.14–2.31) for severely and mildly iron-deficient participants, respectively.

Iron deficiency is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in both Asian and Western ageing populations. Major underlying causes include malnutrition from reduced dietary iron intake and impaired iron absorption from achlorhydria, conditions which are prevalent in the elderly.

In the present study, a positive correlation was found between the severity of iron deficiency and the relative risk of both cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. As a result, regular monitoring of serum iron levels has the potential to significantly improve mortality and quality of life in this population.

The full article was published in May 2013 in Nutrition.