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Study Reveals that Brain Injury Can Increase Risk of Dementia

Updated on: 2/26/2019

According to a new study, brain injury doubles the risk of getting dementia.

A study of older war veterans suggests those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury during their lifetime will have more than two times the risk of developing dementia. The scientists from the University of California – San Francisco presented the information from their research at the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual international conference in Paris.

"We're now getting a much better understanding that head injury is an important risk factor for developing dementia down the road," says lead researcher Kristine Yaffe, director of the Memory Disorders Program at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

War veterans that were 55-years-old or older were studied. There were a total of 300,000 participants. At the beginning of the study, no one has dementia and approximately 2% had previous TBI. All participants had at least one inpatient or outpatient visit between 1997 and 2000 and a follow-up between 2001 and 2007.

A concussion diagnosis, post-concussion syndrome, a skull fracture or some non-specific head injuries are considered traumatic brain injuries.

In those with a TBI diagnosis, the risk of dementia was 15%. Those who had never had a brain injury, had just a 7% chance.

Professor of neurosurgery and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia Douglas Smith, says that other studies has also supported this analysis that TBI can increase the ris of dementia including earlier indication diagnosis and more severe symptoms.

Each year, 1.7 million people experience traumatic brain injury that is usually from car accidents and falls.

Smith says that many soldiers are returning from wars that have experienced TBI.

At this point, it is unknown how many soldiers have a history of brain injury.

"I'm even worried for people psychologically. People worry a lot about, 'Am I going to get Alzheimer's disease?,’" he said.

There is a need for more research to determine whether early rehabilitation can reduce the chance of dementia.

"If you know you've had a head injury and you are approaching older age, one has to be carefully monitored and screened for cognitive dementia."

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