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Veterans with Brain Injury at Higher Risk for Dementia, Study Shows

Research shows that veterans who sustained traumatic brain injuries are at higher risk for developing dementia - and developing it earlier than others.

Research shows that veterans who sustained traumatic brain injuries are at higher risk for developing dementia – and developing it earlier than others. Military veterans who sustained traumatic brain injury while serving our country may be at a heightened risk for developing dementia, new research suggests. Researchers found that veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with dementia years earlier than those who had not suffered an injury – at 78.5 years of age on average, compared to 81 years old, respectively.

The massive research project began a decade ago and evaluated some 190,000 veterans with an average age of 68 and who had not been diagnosed with dementia. Of these participants, 1,229 previously had been diagnosed with a brain injury. Nine years later, researchers revisited those veterans and found that 16 percent of participants with a brain injury had since developed dementia, compared to just 10 percent of study subjects who did not have a brain injury. ”

Our results suggest that [brain injury] may increase the risk of developing dementia in older veterans, with an age of onset about two years earlier,” study author Deborah Barnes, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, told reporters. “So clinicians may want to keep an eye out for signs of cognitive impairment in older veterans with a history of [brain injury].” It’s believed that each time the brain takes a substantial hit, its ability to bounce back after being damaged is reduced. Plus, brain injuries may lead to a buildup of amyloid or tau, proteins known to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Researchers also noted that the risk for developing dementia is higher in TBI veterans who also experienced depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or cerebrovascular disease. What’s more, these veterans’ caretakers also are at a heightened risk for depression and related issues, including suicide. That domino effect means potential harm to an even greater population, making the TBI among veterans an increasingly serious health issue. While it’s important to note that the study results do not prove a definitive cause-and-effect relationship between TBI and dementia among veterans, it undoubtedly reveals an association worth further attention from physicians, caretakers and other researchers.

If you’re suffering health consequences of a TBI sustained during your military service and have been denied your veterans disability benefits, Jacksonville-based Harrell and Harrell can help. Call 800-251-1111 to speak with an attorney specializing in veterans disability benefits today.