Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Medical | By Bryan Strickland

Huge study links brain injury and higher dementia risks

Huge study links brain injury and higher dementia risks

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. In the study group, 5.3 per cent of dementia sufferers had experienced a brain injury when younger, compared to 4.7 per cent of people without dementia.

Researchers analyzed 36 years of data from 2.8 million people and found that those who sustained TBIs were 24 percent more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's or other dementias than those with no history of TBI.

The risk of dementia increased with the number of TBIs and the severity of injury. Even a single mild T.B.I. increased the risk by 17 percent.

A large study offers more evidence of a link between traumatic brain injuries and dementia later in life, with repeated injuries and severe ones posing the greatest danger.

Dementia affects 47 million people worldwide, and that number is expected to double in the next 20 years, the researchers said.

A traumatic brain injury occurs when an external force such as a bump or blow to the head disrupts the normal function of the brain.

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But it would be advisable for people who had suffered a severe knock to the head - whether in a fall, auto accident, through contact sport, or an assault - to take extra precautions.

A link between brain injury and dementia has been confirmed by a study of nearly three million people. It does confirm earlier reports that people who have had brain injuries are at a slightly increased risk of developing the condition, but head injury is still a much smaller contributory factor for developing dementia than smoking, or a sedentary lifestyle - risk factors that are much easier for all of us to do something about.

Fann said it's important to recognize that most people who sustain a single concussion do not develop dementia. From 1999 to 2013, 4.5 percent of the patients over age 50 years developed dementia.

The study also compared people with traumatic brain injuries to people with other types of traumatic injuries, like broken bones other than the skull or spine.

The study is being carried out by researchers at the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) at Trinity College Dublin, as part of a study in collaboration with Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh universities, Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and the Inserm Neuroscience in France. "The attributable risk of traumatic brain injury to different exposures and how these change across time needs policy attention, given it is likely that prevention of these need be considered at societal, community, and local levels".

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