Anemia Risk Factors

Anemia is a common condition. It occurs in all age, racial, and ethnic groups. Both men and women can have anemia. However, women of childbearing age are at higher risk for the condition because of blood loss 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.

Older adults also are at increased risk for anemia. Researchers continue to study how the condition affects older adults. Many of these people have other medical conditions as well.

Major Risk Factors of Anemia

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 thalassemia

Common Causes of Anemia

A variety of acute disease conditions can affect the hemoglobin concentration. Medical conditions and/or medications independently associated with anemia include:

Medical conditions

  • history of stroke or myocardial infarction
  • diabetes mellitus
  • hypertension
  • chronic kidney disease


  • angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors
  • antiandrogenic medications
  • methyldopa
  • penicillin
  • sulfonamides
  • quinidine
  • alkylating agents
  • anthracyclines
  • antimetabolites
  • colchicine
  • zidovudine
  • anticonvulsants
  • hydroxyurea
  • methotrexate
  • proton pump inhibitors