The wrong level of red blood cells can make you feel drained and sick.
Despite getting plenty of sleep and not having any major changes to your routine, you feel tired all day. You’re colder than normal, and it feels like you almost always have a headache. None of these problems seem serious enough to discuss with your physician, but you find yourself missing activities with friends and family so you can rest. Is this just a normal part of aging, or is something wrong?
Anemia is the result of your body not having enough red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the rest of your body, so when you’re running low, you may feel exhausted, dizzy and short of breath. Many people who are anemic also appear pale, have coldness in the hands and feet, and have chest pain.
For seniors who may have anemia, symptoms may be mild enough to mimic normal aging. However, untreated anemia can have negative consequences. The underlying cause of the anemia—such as a chronic illness or bleeding from a polyp in the colon—may be causing issues. Anemia itself can have complications, including heart arrhythmias and dehydration.
Diagnosis and Treatment
As many as 44 percent of seniors have some anemia, although symptoms may be mild enough that it goes undetected. If you have symptoms of anemia, talk with your physician. Blood tests will check the levels of red blood cells and iron in your blood. Once your physician determines you have anemia, he or she will help you figure out the underlying cause.
Sometimes, a vitamin deficiency—often B12 or folic acid—can cause anemia, and you simply need to replace these vitamins in your body. Your physician may test for internal bleeding or do other tests to determine how best to get you back to normal.
Your Yearly Exam
Medicare covers a yearly preventive exam visit to your physician. An important part of staying well as you age, this visit will allow you to discuss:
A checklist for needed preventive health services Family and medical history
Height, weight and blood pressure readings
Risk factors for common conditions
Screenings, vaccinations and referrals for other care
Your body mass index
Your risk for depression