Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 27th 2014 Contents B28
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, June 27, 2014
Older military veterans who have suffered a seri-
ous head injury are more likely to be diagnosed
with dementia than uninjured veterans, according
to a new study.
The report looked at traumatic brain injury (TBI),
which includes concussions, skull fractures and
bleeding inside the skull.
"There have been a fair number of previous studies
that have looked at the relationship between TBI
and risk of dementia, and some have found an asso-
ciation while others haven t," said lead author Deborah
E. Barnes, from the University of California, San
Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs
She and her colleagues sought to clarify the rela-
tionship by taking into account other conditions,
like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder
"And we found that, even after accounting for
these other factors, older veterans with a history of
TBI were 60 per cent more likely to develop demen-
tia," Barnes told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
Dementia affects five per cent of people in their
70s and 37 per cent of those in their 90s, according
to past research.
For the new study, the researchers examined the
medical records of more than 188,000 US veterans
ages 55 and older who had undergone a medical
evaluation between 2000 and 2003 and did not have
dementia at the time.
The veterans all visited the doctor again at least
once between 2003 and 2012.
According to their records, 1,229 of the veterans
had been diagnosed with TBI. Between 2003 and
2012, 196 of those with a history of TBI developed
dementia, or 16 per cent, compared to 18,255 of the
veterans without TBI, or 10 per cent.
Veterans with TBI also developed dementia an
average of two years earlier than those without TBI,
according to results published in Neurology.
"Of course, these numbers reflect population aver-
ages, so there will be many individual veterans with-
out TBI who develop dementia and many with TBI
who don t," Barnes said. "Having a TBI just increases
Veterans with head injuries in the study were more
likely than uninjured veterans to have other health
problems including diabetes, high blood pressure,
depression and PTSD.
"Head trauma is pretty controversial still," said
Dr Rodolfo Savica of the University of Utah School
of Medicine in Salt Lake City.
"We know it can increase risk of dementia in the
long run, but not everybody who is exposed to this
trauma develops problems," Savica, who wrote an
editorial accompanying the study, told Reuters Health.
Other health issues that exist alongside head trau-
ma are also important, he said.
Since veterans with TBI were more likely to have
diabetes and high blood pressure as well, this is
likely a group that is more prone to disease or more
vulnerable, Savica said.
"We should follow up more carefully with these
people," he said. "Whenever you have additional
(health issues), if you are depressed or have PTSD,
you have to tell your doctor."
Head injuries are common among both veterans
and non-veterans, affecting as many as one in five
Iraq and Afghanistan vets, Barnes said.
Veterans with head injuries may be able to lower
their risk of dementia by engaging in physical, mental
and social activities, making sure high blood pressure
and diabetes are well controlled and getting treatment
for any mental health conditions such as depression
and PTSD, she said.
"We found that there was an additive relationship
between mental health conditions and head injury,
so that veterans who had both of these risk factors
were more likely to develop dementia than those
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who only had one," Barnes said.
"In addition, they may be able to lower risk of
dementia by doing their best to minimise future
head injuries by doing simple things to protect their
brain, like wearing helmets and seat belts," she said.
Traumatic brain injury linked
to increased dementia risk
as many as
one in five
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