Latest News » New research finds dementia risk heightened by brain injuries for elderly

For seniors over age 65, a mild concussion could raise risks for dementia.

A new study finds that brain injuries — even just a mild concussion — past age 65 can significantly raise risks for developing dementia.

These findings, which were published in the October 27 edition of JAMA Neurology, seem to indicate that as our minds and bodies age, the brain becomes more physically vulnerable to the point where an injury can seriously impair memory support or even foster a neurodegenerative condition like dementia. And while this might be expected, even obvious, of more traumatic brain injuries caused in car accidents, for example, the research indicates that even comparatively less serious conditions like a concussion incurred from a simple slip-and-fall can increase the likelihood of dementia among seniors.

"This was surprising and suggests that older brain may be especially vulnerable to traumatic brain injury, regardless of the traumatic brain injury severity," said Dr. Raquel Gardner, the study's lead author and a clinical research fellow at the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center, in an official statement. "Or to spin it more positively, the younger brain may be more resilient to mild traumatic brain injury or may take longer to show symptoms of dementia."

Between 2005 and 2011, the study examined approximately 52,000 patients over age 55 that had been admitted to emergency rooms in California for various traumatic injuries. Over 8 percent of patients that had incurred mild traumatic brain injuries had developed dementia by the end of the study period, and this risk factor only grew among patients age 65 and older.

As HealthDay News notes, while this finding doesn't prove a definitive cause-and-effect relationship between the two, it does seem to imply at least that maintaining brain health — particularly for seniors — depends on preventing bodily injuries, such as falls and other hits to the head, as well. 

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