A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop a nutritional anemia with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing a nutritional anemia. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Women between puberty and menopause are at higher risk for iron deficiency anemia than men and women of other age groups. Infants and young children are at risk of iron deficiency anemia.
Pregnancy also places extra iron demands on women. A folic acid supplement is usually included in a standard prenatal vitamin. Check with your doctor. The supplement is recommended for every pregnant woman, as much to prevent neural tube defects in the baby as to guard against folic acid anemia in the mom.
Low levels of bleeding from the stomach are a side effect of aspirin and other pain medications, like ibuprofen and naproxen. The risk is highest for those who take the medication regularly for chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Medications used to reduce stomach acid (especially proton pump inhibitors) may decrease the absorption of iron. Other medications, such as the anti-folate drug, methotrexate, and some antibiotics, can also affect your risk of developing anemia.
Unusually poor diets, such as in alcohol use disorder, can increase the risk of folic acid deficiency anemia. In addition, excess consumption of tea or foods made from wheat may decrease the absorption of iron.
The diets of infants and young children can be deficient in iron. This may be due to too much cows milk (not iron rich), not enough iron rich foods, and picky eating.
Cancers, especially colon cancer, can cause slow leaking of blood within the body, which increases your risk of developing anemia. Many stomach and intestinal disorders may interfere with the absorption of iron, B 12, or folate.
Lead poisoning in adults or children can also affect how the body uses iron.
Anemia—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T240897/Anemia-differential-diagnosis. Updated January 21, 2016. Accessed September 30, 2016.
Decreased erythropoiesis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/anemias-caused-by-deficient-erythropoiesis/decreased-erythropoiesis. Updated May 2013. Accessed September 15, 2016.
Who is at risk for anemia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/anemia/atrisk. Updated May 18, 2012. Accessed September 15, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2017 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.