Research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in France, on Monday, July 18, 2011, challenges the idea that only moderate or severe brain injuries predispose people to dementia.
According to recent studies, even a concussion or mild brain injury might put someone at risk.
One large study of older veterans raises new concern about mild brain injuries incurred in recent wars by hundreds of thousands of troops exposed to explosions. The study indicated that even concussions appear to raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementia later in life.
Researchers studied a group of veterans, with and without previous brain injury, over a period of years. Over seven years, more than 15 percent of those who had suffered a brain injury were diagnosed with dementia versus only 7 percent of those who had not. Severity of the injury made no difference in the odds.
Body armor, used in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, help troops survive bomb blasts but these troops still incur closed-head traumatic brain injuries. The long-term effects of these head injuries are unknown.
Experts advise that troops will need close monitoring in the years ahead and treatment for post-traumatic stress, depression and other conditions that can lead to cognitive problems, experts said.
The results of the study do not necessarily mean that every individual who has had a concussion is in danger. However, people should try to avoid brain injuries by fall-proofing their homes and wearing seatbelts and helmets.
Approximately 1.7 million brain injuries occur each year in the U.S.
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