Brain Injury and Dementia
Researchers continue to investigate the relationship between brain injury (mild concussion, traumatic brain injury) and dementia. Concussion or TBI are fairly common injuries caused by slip and falls, car accidents, workplace injuries, physical assaults, and sports.
If brain injury and dementia are connected, then presumably there is a mechanism to prevent those with a brain injury from going on to developing dementia. What we know so far:
- The more severely a brain is injured the higher the risk of dementia. Several studies have now shown a relationship exists, and a recent one from Denmark shows that one moderate TBI can increase the risk of developing dementia by 24%, while severe TBI increases the risk by 35%. These findings are in line with many other studies to date.
- The more TBI that you suffer, the higher the risks that you will develop dementia. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is caused by repeated concussion – think of hockey players, football players and boxers. CTE leads to severe cognitive, emotional and physical decline. Currently it can only be definitively diagnosed upon death through autopsy.
- TBI is thought to trigger Alzheimer’s. When TBI is sustained certain proteins are released within the brain and it is thought that one of these – beta-amyloid – which is released after a severe TBI triggers the disease. This may be the root of why TBI causes dementia however more research is being done to confirm that this is the causal relationship.
Not all TBI will result in the person developing dementia and there is a lot of research going into answering the question of why that is. Women seem more prone to TBI however overall the rates of Alzheimer’s dementia in men and women are similar to the age of 90 when women have a higher rate of Alzheimer’s while men have a higher rate of vascular dementia in all age groups.
Scientists suggest that dementia has a genetic component along with a physical one There are ways that doctors suggest you can reduce your risk of developing dementia:
- Stay physically active – walking, swimming and yoga are great low impact low risk activites as you age
- Continue to learn – challenge your brain by learning new games or doing puzzles, continue to read, try a new language
- Keep a strong social network by participating in group activities, volunteer, join a choir or church group
- Eat a well balanced diet