The number-one risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older patients is suffering one or more traumatic brain injuries (TBI) within his or her lifetime, according to a recent study published in JAMA Neurology.
Traumatic brain injury results from any accident or event that causes damage to the brain. Concussions, which involve bruising of the brain when the head strikes or is struck by another object, are a common form of TBI that can occur in nearly any kind of accident situation, as well as during sports and other activities. An object that pierces the skull during an accident can also cause a TBI.
A history of TBI that caused vascular injuries was directly linked to loss of memory as well as organization and problem-solving skills in later life, according to the study. Researchers used MRI and PET scans to examine both the amount of vascular injury and the concentration of amyloid plaques in the brain, long considered a sign of Alzheimer’s. The results found that patients with vascular injury were often impaired, while patients with amyloid plaques still tended to remember and solve problems effectively.
Researchers predict that the findings will change the way doctors think about dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as how aggressively they treat brain trauma. If TBI increases the risk of dementia, physicians may focus on treating TBI more thoroughly to reduce dementia risk in future.
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