Older Armed Forces veterans who have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) were linked with a 60 per cent increased rate of developing dementia than those veterans who have not experienced TBI in research published in Neurology today (25 June 2014). According to the research, veterans with a diagnosis of TBI also developed dementia two years earlier than those without.
Researchers at the University of California studied the medical records of 188,784 former members of the United States Armed Forces with an average age of 68, all of whom were free of dementia at the beginning of the study. 1,229 of the veterans had a diagnosis of TBI and of that group, 196 (16 per cent) developed dementia compared to 18,225 (10 per cent) of those studied who did not have a traumatic brain injury. Having adjusted for increased risk factors for dementia including diabetes and high blood pressure, the researchers suggest that veterans who have TBI are 60 per cent more likely to develop dementia.
Additionally, the study suggests that veterans with TBI who have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or cerebrovascular disease were at even higher risk of developing dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society comment:
‘While we don’t need to worry about smaller bangs on the head, larger trauma to the brain could increase the risk of dementia. This interesting study adds weight to that evidence and also suggests that mental health issues in those already at increased risk can make them even more likely to develop dementia.
‘We need to understand more about the relationship that trauma has to later cognitive decline and dementia if we’re going to reduce these effects. Alzheimer’s Society funds research to examine how changes in the brain caused by brain injury can lead to dementia. This is one of too many unanswered questions about dementia, so we need a significant increase in research to find answers for the one in three people over 65 who will develop the condition.’
Dr Doug Brown
Director of Research and Development