After one of the largest ever investigations into the link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cognitive decline in later life, Danish and U.S. researchers concluded that the younger a person was when sustaining a head injury, the higher the risk of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
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 even a single concussion are more likely to develop dementia than people with no history of brain injuries, according to a University of Washington study published Tuesday in the Lancet.
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"This population based study of over 2.5 million people provides perhaps the best evidence yet that traumatic brain injury is a risk factor for dementia".
'There are 850,000 people with dementia - this number is set to rise to 1 million by 2021 and more research is urgently needed to fill the gaps in our understanding of lifestyle factors that increase dementia risk'. Their study covers a period of 36 years. "Making major decisions about brain injured patients rely on quick assessments and the new method gives us rapid insights into the patient's condition". Even compared to that group, the TBI group had higher risk for dementia.
"Our findings do not suggest that everyone who suffers a traumatic brain injury will go on to develop dementia later in life", Fann said. In the study, 5.3 percent of dementia patients had a brain injury in the past. Leading causes include falls, motor vehicle accidents, and assaults.
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While 85 per cent of the TBIs diagnosed were classed as mild, researchers said they are still likely to have been more serious concussions as the symptoms had to be severe or persistent enough to warrant a trip to hospital.
A single severe traumatic brain injury raised the chances of developing dementia by more than a third.
Writing in a linked comment, Professor Carol Brayne from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK says, "Now we need to tease out what is happening in terms of traumatic brain injury, wider spectrum exposures and how these occur across different ages, by gender, and also by community within societies".
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