According to new research, even one head injury can increase your chances of developing dementia by 25% decades later, and the risk increases with each subsequent head injury.” Head injury is not the only risk factor for dementia; high blood pressure and diabetes, among other things, also contribute significantly to dementia risk,” and “however, head injury is one risk factor for dementia that is modifiable by behavioral changes like wearing helmets and seat belts.” said study author Dr. Andrea Schneider.
A Single Concussion Can Increase Your Chances Of Developing Dementia
Dementia refers to a group of diseases that affect thinking ability, memory, and/or other cognitive functions, including Alzheimer’s disease. According to Schneider, the exact mechanism by which a head injury can cause dementia is still unknown. She explained about “Just as vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and other factors can affect the health of the blood vessels in the brain, which can lead to dementia later in life,” and “head injury causes injury to the blood vessels in the brain, which can lead to dementia later in life through similar pathways.”
The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study collected data from over 14,000 people over 25 years. The participants, who were on average 54 years old, were interviewed about head injuries regularly in person and/or over the phone. The researchers also looked at the hospital records of those who had suffered head injuries.
A previous head injury increased the risk of dementia by 25% when compared to people who had never had a head injury. The study found that having two or more head injuries were linked to 25-year increased risk of dementia.
Nearly 10% of all dementia cases in the study were linked to a history of a head injury after age 45, and this increased risk was seen across the board, including Alzheimer’s disease. Following a head injury, women were more likely than men to develop dementia, and white people were more at risk than black people.”These findings are novel, and further replication, as well as an investigation into the reasons for these possible sex and race differences, is required,” Schneider said.
The findings suggest a link between concussion and dementia later in life, but they do not prove causation. More research is needed to understand how head injury can lead to dementia, he said, calling the new findings “very important” and “there are a number of mechanisms by which a traumatic brain injury can lead to dementia, and we know that dementia begins 20 to 30 years before it becomes symptomatic,” Fillit explained.
He pointed out that there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing dementia. They include not smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, staying socially connected, and wearing a helmet or seat belt to protect your head. Other known risks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, must also be managed.
He said that “The most common mechanism for injury in older people is falling,” “fall prevention should focus on fall prevention in older people,” and “core-strengthening and balance-improving exercises can help to lower the risk of falling.”In modern societies, traumatic brain injury is common, and advances in neurosurgical and neurological care have allowed most victims of even severe injuries to live for decades, albeit with disabilities.