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July 20, 2011

Mild Brain Injury Leads to Dementia

Dementia is the loss of brain function affecting memory, thinking, language, judgment and behaviour.

Until recently, the medical community accepted the belief that only moderate to severe brain injuries can lead to dementia later in life.

New research challenges this, suggesting that even mild brain injuries raise the risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

An article in the Globe and Mail highlights the implications of brain injuries suffered by athletes, war veterans and, more recently, those injured in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Researchers reviewed medical records on 281,540 veterans. Of this number, 4,902 had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). More than 15% of those who had suffered a brain injury were diagnosed with dementia versus only 7% of the others – a more than doubled risk. Severity of the injury made no difference in the odds of developing dementia.

But brain injuries affect more than war veterans and competitive athletes.

In total, approximately 1.7 million brain injuries occur each year in the U.S. Based on this number, we can approximate that brain injuries in Canada are about 170,000 per year. Many of these brain injuries are caused by car, bike and motorcycle accidents or falls. The article suggests avoiding injuries by fall-proofing your home and wearing helmets and seat belts when on the road.

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