Published: Thu, April 12, 2018
Medical | By Jackie Banks

Number, severity of brain injuries raises dementia risk

Number, severity of brain injuries raises dementia risk

WEDNESDAY, April 11, 2018 (HealthDay News) - Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is associated with increased risk of dementia, according to a study published online April 10 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

A single TBI characterised as "severe" increased the risk by 35 per cent while a single "mild" TBI or concussion increased the risk by 17 per cent, revealed the research.

"While there is growing interest in the question of whether collisions in sports like rugby or football might affect dementia risk, this study only looked at head injuries that required hospital treatment and doesn't tell us anything about the impacts you'd normally expect to see on the sports field".

A single severe traumatic brain injury raised the chances of developing dementia by more than a third.

After adjusting for medical, neurological and psychiatric illnesses, they found that compared with people who had never had a T.B.I., those who had had any were at a 24 percent increased risk for dementia, and those who had had five or more had almost triple the risk. People with a history of TBI had a higher fully-adjusted risk of all-cause dementia (hazard ratio, 1.24) compared to those without a history of TBI; the risk of Alzheimer's disease was also increased (hazard ratio, 1.16).

They identified and cumulative effect, and found dementia risk rises with repeated episodes of brain injury.

A TBI is classified as a blow to the head which disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.

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This research encompassed a large study population, 36 years of follow-up, and access to a uniform healthcare system that tracks the number and severity of TBIs.

In total, 5.3 per cent of participants with dementia had a history of TBI compared with 4.7 per cent of those without the condition.

A traumatic brain injury can be caused by a fall, a traffic accident, a sports accident or a violent attack.

And, "our findings do not suggest that everyone who suffers a traumatic brain injury will go on to develop dementia in later life", Fann added.

Those who sustained a TBI in their 30s were 37% more likely to develop dementia 30 years later compared to those who did not. But he said the findings might lead people with TBI histories to change their behaviors toward other potential risk factors for dementia, such as limiting alcohol and tobacco use, engaging in regular exercise, preventing obesity, and treating hypertension, diabetes, and depression.

Fann said more research is needed to understand who is at greatest risk of dementia and what other factors contribute to that risk. They also note that they did not include TBIs treated by general practitioners, so the data might not have captured some less severe TBIs.

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