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Traumatic Brain Injury May Still Increase Dementia Risk Years After Accident

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Findings of a new study have suggested that a concussion or other forms of traumatic brain injury can up a person's odds of developing dementia, even it the accident happened 30 years ago.

Several blows to the brain have long been linked to risk of dementia but the new study found that the risk still remains many years later.

For the study, researchers looked at the data of thousands of people from databases that cover the years 1964 to 2012. They found that the odds of getting diagnosed with dementia were highest within the first year of the injury. During this time, those with TBI had up to six times the risk of getting dementia as those without TBI.

TBI Patients Still At Greater Risk Of Dementia Years After Injury

The overall risk decreased over time but the researchers found that the individuals who had TBI still had a higher risk of dementia than those without TBI even after 30 years. The researchers, in particular, found that the risk for dementia rose by 80 percent for those with at least one TBI, contrary to those who did not experience any traumatic brain injury.

"The risk of dementia diagnosis decreased over time after TBI, but it was still evident 30 years after the trauma. The association was stronger for more severe TBI and multiple TBIs, and it persisted after adjustment for familial factors," researchers Peter Nordstrom and Anna Nordstrom from Umeå University in Sweden wrote.

The study is not conclusive that TBI causes dementia but it does show an apparent link between traumatic brain injury and the neurological disorder. Nonetheless, not everyone with TBI develops dementia.

"The preponderance of the literature I would say supports that there appears to be an increased risk of dementia after traumatic brain injury," said Steven Flanagan from the New York University Langone Medical Center.

Reducing Risk

Although there is no medication that can prevent dementia, a person's lifestyle is believed to influence the risk for the condition. Those who keep a healthy weight and keep their blood pressure low, for instance, could be reducing their risk of dementia.

"I think this study will pinpoint the importance of continuing preventative safety measures in sports [and doing what we already know] to reduce the risk of dementia, such as avoiding excess alcohol intake and high blood pressure," Peter Nordstrom said.

The findings were published in PLOS Medicine on Jan. 30.

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