THURSDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Anemia more than triples a man's risk of death after suffering a stroke, a new study suggests.
"Severe anemia among stroke survivors increases their chance of dying throughout the first year after their stroke," said lead researcher Dr. Jason Sico, an assistant professor of neurology at the Yale University School of Medicine.
Anemia, a common blood disorder, is a better predictor of death after stroke than heart disease, cancer or a severe stroke, the researchers said. The risk is even there in people who are slightly anemic, they found after studying nearly 4,000 men who suffered a stroke.
Sico explained that anemia can cause changes in the blood vessels of the brain, making the brain less able to counteract a stroke.
"It can also change how effectively oxygen is delivered to the brain, and may [play a role] in common medical problems that also increase the risk of having a stroke," he said.
Most people having a stroke have very high blood pressure at that time, he said. "While it may seem unsafe, higher blood pressure at the time of a stroke is something the body does to try to get more blood to the brain, and especially to the part of the brain where the stroke is happening. This process, called 'cerebral auto-regulation,' is oftentimes impaired in those with long-standing anemia," Sico said.
Anemia also decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the brain, which is even more detrimental during a stroke, when blood and oxygen are prevented from getting to the brain, he added.
The findings are slated for presentation Thursday at the American Stroke Association conference in New Orleans.
Sico's team reviewed the medical records of 3,750 men who had suffered a stroke and were seen at one of 131 U.S. Veterans Administration hospitals in 2007. They all had suffered an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blo
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