Brain injury in teenagers may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease: Lancet

Brain injury in teenagers may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease: Lancet

Lead author Professor Jesse Fann, from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, said that "individuals with a history of traumatic brain injury, 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.

The authors found that someone with one TBI had a risk of developing dementia after age 50 that was 22 per cent higher than someone with no diagnosed brain injury, this was 33 per cent higher with two TBIs or 200 per cent higher with five or more.

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.

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Suffering a traumatic brain injury from a blow to the head boosted dementia risk by 24 percent in a Danish study group of almost three million people, researchers said Wednesday.

But a single severe brain injury increased the risk of later dementia by 35 percent compared with a person who never had brain trauma. Even a single mild T.B.I. increased the risk by 17 percent. Each year, there are ten million new patients. TBI occurs when an external force such as a bump or blow to the head disrupts the normal function of the brain.

Dementia remained relatively rare: only 4.7 percent of study participants developed dementia at all, a total of 126,734 people. And he clarified that the findings do not suggest that every person who sustains a severe TBI will develop dementia later in life. Causes include road traffic accidents, falls, sporting accidents and assaults.

However, the study results could lead people with TBI histories to change certain behaviors like alcohol and tobacco use, regular exercise and treating hypertension, diabetes and depression to limit other potential risk factors for dementia.

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Those who sustained a TBI in their 30s were 37% more likely to develop dementia 30 years later compared to those who did not.

Importantly, the younger the individual sustaining a TBI the higher the risk of subsequent dementia, when taking time since TBI into account.

Fann said more research is needed to understand who is at greatest risk of dementia and what other factors contribute to that risk.

The researchers also discovered that a brain injury in your 20s increases the risk of developing dementia in your 50s by 60 percent. "Our findings suggest that improved traumatic brain injury prevention programmes may have an opportunity to reduce the burden of dementia worldwide".

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