Both men and women can have anemia, but women of childbearing age are at higher risk for the anemia.
Anemia is a common condition. It occurs in all age groups and all racial and ethnic groups. Both men and women can have anemia, but women of childbearing age are at higher risk for the condition. This is because women in this age range lose blood from menstruation.
Anemia can develop during pregnancy due to low levels of iron and folic acid (folate) and changes in the blood. During the first 6 months of pregnancy, the fluid portion of a woman’s blood (the plasma) increases faster than the number of red blood cells. This dilutes the blood and can lead to anemia.
Infants younger than 2 years old also are at risk for anemia. This is because they may not get enough iron in their diets, especially if they drink a lot of cow's milk. Cow's milk is low in the iron needed for growth. Drinking too much cow’s milk may keep an infant or toddler from eating enough iron-rich foods. It also may keep his or her body from absorbing iron from iron-rich food.
Researchers continue to study how anemia affects older adults. More than 10 percent of older adults have mild forms of anemia. Many of these people have other medical conditions as well.
Major Risk Factors
Factors that raise your risk for anemia include:
- A diet that is low in iron, vitamins, or minerals
- Blood loss from surgery or an injury
- Long-term or serious illnesses, such as kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn’s disease), liver disease, heart failure, and thyroid disease
- Long-term infections
- A family history of inherited anemia, such as sickle cell anemia or thalassemias
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