Number, severity of brain injuries raises dementia risk

Number, severity of brain injuries raises dementia risk

"What surprised us was that even a single mild TBI was associated with a significantly higher risk of dementia", added Jesse Fann, Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, US.

The study is based on analyzing 36 years of medical records for almost 2.8 million people in Denmark over age 50, looking at their histories of brain injuries, dementia and other medical conditions.

The study found that overall, those who sustained a TBI were 24% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia over the study period compared to those who had not suffered such an injury.

'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'.

"Severe TBI is particularly frequent in young people, and it is concerning that the risk of dementia is particular high in relatively young persons who suffer TBI", said Jakob Christensen, an associate professor at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.

The survey of 36 years' worth of data - collected from the Danish national patient register - found that the risk of dementia rose with the number and severity of brain injuries, a team wrote in The Lancet Psychiatry, a medical journal.

Leading causes include falls, motor vehicle accidents, and assaults.

Dementia affects 47 million people worldwide and the number of patients is expected to double in the next 20 years.

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"Individuals with a history of TBI, including those with less severe injuries have an increased risk of developing dementia, even decades after the injury".

The scientists involved in the brain injury and dementia research identified every diagnosis of TBI from the health records of a Danish population of 2.8 million people between 1977 and 2013.

"This study provides compelling evidence of a link between TBI and dementia, that goes beyond typical studies focusing on professional athletes in contact sports (e.g., football), to include a broader representation of the general public".

Prior studies of traumatic brain injury and dementia have struggled to establish a link because of low sample sizes or study intervals that were too short to observe dementia development.

The association between TBI and dementia held true even when comparing people with a history of TBI to those with non-TBI fractures not involving the skull or spine.

The findings also show that men with a history of TBI had a slightly higher risk of developing dementia than women. As a effect of those injuries, the CDC said 230,000 people are hospitalized and survive, 50,000 die and 80,000 to 90,000 experience the onset of long-term disability.