Traumatic Brain Injuries Increase Future Dementia Risks


Traumatic Brain Injuries Increase Future Dementia RisksA study found that aging military veterans who had survived serious head traumas were more prone to develop dementia in later life than uninjured veteran controls. Subjects who’d survived traumatic brain injuries also had greater chances of developing additional medical problems including hypertension, diabetes, depression, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Search this Canada pharmacy for prescription drugs that treat these and many other illnesses. Learn how to get up to 90-percent savings on your medications.

Veteran Study Results

Previous research determined that dementia patients include five percent of older adults aged 70 to 79 and 37 percent of elderly people in their 90s. Past studies on the association between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and dementia risk have provided mixed results, notes Deborah Barnes, the lead author. So along with her colleagues, she conducted a sizable study to clarify that relationship by considering additional conditions.

The research team examined medical records on 188,764 U.S. veterans aged 55 and up who’d undergone health evaluations from 2000 to 2003 without dementia diagnoses. Each patient had at least one follow-up doctor visit from 2003 to 2012. The investigators examined multiple subsequent effects of head traumas. Even after allowing for other factors, veterans with physical damage histories had 60-percent greater chances of developing dementia as they aged.

Records showed that 1229 veterans had received TBI diagnoses in the initial three-year baseline period. Injuries included concussions, fractured skulls, and bleeding within their skulls. During the second evaluation period, 196 (16 percent) of the patients with TBI histories developed dementia. In addition, 18,255 (10 percent) of those without injuries acquired some cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, or vascular dementia. Veteran records were unclear if brain injuries occurred during or after military service and whether patients suffered single incidents or multiple mild head impacts.

On average, TBI veterans developed dementia two years sooner than subjects without such injuries. Because these statistics represent population averages, many affected veterans won’t develop dementia while many without TBIs will. Having experienced a head wound increases you risk. Veterans who’d suffered head shocks were more prone to develop additional medical issues like diabetes, depression, hypertension, PTSD, and cerebrovascular disease than uninjured veterans.

Understanding TBIs

Any impacts on your head that disturb normal mental functioning can cause traumatic brain injuries. Up to one in five Afghanistan and Iraq veterans have endured brain injuries, Barnes reports. But her results apply to civilians as well, due to the similarities among military and noncombatant brain traumas. In war, head injuries from explosives are common, but falls cause the most TBIs among civilians of all ages. Problems also occur following auto wrecks, sports injuries, bullet wounds, and other skull or brain jolts.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people 75 and up have the greatest TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths. Head traumas are controversial, notes Dr. Rodolfo Savica. Because coexisting health problems were common among veterans with TBIs, he speculates that they may be more vulnerable to diseases. So follow-ups are important for patients like these. He advises telling your doctor about all extra health conditions including mental ones like depression and PTSD.

Understanding TBIsDoctors classify head injuries as mild, moderate, or severe, based on whether they cause blackouts, unconsciousness periods, and symptom severity. Even though most TBIs like concussions are mild because they aren’t life threatening, their ongoing effects may be serious. Lingering or permanent direct symptoms may include unconsciousness, no memory of your trauma, confusion, dizziness, impaired learning skills, difficulty recalling new details, and trouble thinking and speaking coherently. You also might experience headaches, problems with your hearing, ringing in your ears, blurry vision, nausea, vomiting, disorientation, unsteadiness, coordination deficiencies, and emotional or sleep pattern changes.

But how do head traumas trigger dementia years later? Barnes suggests that a physical blow could contribute to other factors that drain your cognitive reserves. Or TBI could hasten the accumulation of toxic proteins in your brain that affect cognitive functioning. Additional possibilities include blood-brain barrier damage and disrupted axon transport. All dementia forms are progressive, worsening over time. They can affect your quality of life, compromise efforts to control other medical conditions, and shorten your life span.

Reduce Your Dementia Chances

The study authors report that head injury survivors can try to reduce their dementia risks by pursuing mental, physical, and socializing activities while controlling diabetes and hypertension, and also seeking treatment for mental health concerns like depression or PTSD. They linked head injuries to mental health issues because subjects with both risk factors had greater chances of developing dementia than vets with just one condition.

Barnes notes that TBI patients might decrease their dementia odds by trying to limit further head injuries. Consider the potential risks of various activities before pursuing them. Brain protection strategies may help preserve your cognitive health. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends maintaining your vehicle properly, following all driving rules, and always using seatbelts. Also safeguard your head by wearing protective equipment including a helmet whenever you bike, skate, or play contact sports.