The Link Between Diabetes and Anemia

Editor’s Note: This article is for informational purposes only. You should not use it to replace any professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any health issues. Any questions about your blood health should be directed toward a physician, hematologist, or other licensed healthcare professional.

Having one may put you at a higher risk of the other— here’s what you should know

Diabetes and anemia may not share much on the surface, but these two disorders have a closer link than most people might think. That’s not to say that everyone who has iron-deficiency anemia will develop diabetes or vice-versa, but having one could very well increase your risk of the other if you don’t treat the root source of the problem.

In this blog, we’ll go over the different ways diabetes and anemia are linked and what people with one or both of the conditions should be aware of. 

1. Diabetes can increase your anemia risk

You probably know that diabetes can cause kidney damage, which is why people with extreme cases need to undergo dialysis treatment because their kidneys can’t properly filter excess waste out of the blood. 

Over time, diabetes can damage the kidneys’ blood vessels or cause high blood pressure, which can also impact the kidneys. 

This can lead to a decreased amount of the hormone erythropoietin. This hormone tells your body to make more red blood cells — the fewer red blood cells you make, the higher your risk of anemia. 

2. Some diabetes medications can decrease your hemoglobin

There are some cases where medication taken to treat diabetes may result in decreased hemoglobin, which is needed to carry oxygen throughout the body to muscles and organs. 

Metformin, one of the most widely-used diabetes medications, has been found to decrease people’s Vitamin B12 levels. Vitamin B12 is necessary for red blood cell formation—the fewer red blood cells one has, the lower their hemoglobin levels and the higher their anemia risk. 

3. Anemia may impact your blood glucose readings

Although anemia in and of itself may not cause diabetes there have been cases where the blood disorder has caused people to misread their blood sugar readings. According to studies, anemia can cause inaccurate readings in some blood glucose monitors. 

However, this is one of those cases where researchers only found a correlation and not causation between anemia and blood sugar readings—in other words, it’s not quite clear yet why this happens. 

Researchers and scientists recommend getting regular blood panels to get the most accurate reading of your blood glucose levels if you have anemia and are worried about your risk of diabetes. 

4. How should you treat anemia and diabetes? 

Whether you have one or both of these conditions, there are a few things you can do to keep your blood health in check. The first is simple—eat more iron to decrease your anemia risk. 

  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Tofu/tempeh
  • Oats
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Lentils
  • Palm Hearts
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Pumpkin and flax seeds
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms

If you have diabetes, you should talk to your doctor about any medication you’re on to see if it might be affecting your hemoglobin levels. You can either change to a different medication with fewer side effects or develop a plan to make sure you’re getting enough of every nutrient. 

And lastly, make sure to Tap Into Your Health with AnemoCheck. With just a quick fingernail selfie you can get the insight you need into your blood health and instantly know your hemoglobin levels in a snap. 

Click here to download the app via the iOS or Android app stores.

REFERENCES

Infante M, Leoni M, Caprio M, Fabbri A. Long-term metformin therapy and vitamin B12 deficiency: An association to bear in mind. World J Diabetes. 2021;12(7):916-931. doi:10.4239/wjd.v12.i7.916

Pidcoke HF, Wade CE, Mann EA, et al. Anemia causes hypoglycemia in intensive care unit patients due to error in single-channel glucometers: methods of reducing patient risk. Crit Care Med. 2010;38(2):471-476. doi:10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181bc826f

Join the Conversation

Read More