Finnish researchers have found that individuals requiring a hospital stay as a result of a traumatic brain injury are more likely to develop dementia later in life.

The longitudinal population-based study, published in the journal Neurology last month, reviewed the medical records of  31,909 Finnish people over a 20-year period. Nearly 700 of the individuals had experienced a TBI requiring at least five days in hospital between 1970 and 2017, and 976 went on to be diagnosed with dementia. Close analysis of the records revealed that those who required hospital treatment for three or more days had a higher risk of developing dementia in later life.

The participants were aged between 25-64, had regular health check-ups every five years between 1992-2012 and were monitored for dementia diagnoses for up to five years after the study. With TBI considered a potential dementia risk factor, the researchers set out determine whether TBI actually increases the risk of dementia when adjusting for other relevant dementia risk factors, such as physical activity and alcohol consumption.

The research also revealed that people hospitalised for up to one day, after experiencing a minor brain injury, did not have a significantly increased risk of developing dementia.

Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“This study provides further evidence that major traumatic brain injury increases dementia risk, but the findings suggest that this effect was weakened in people who were physically active and didn’t drink too much alcohol. The results highlight the complex nature of dementia risk and the importance of the combined effects of several factors.

The researchers only considered TBI cases requiring hospital admission in the study and did not look at the effects of smaller, more frequent head impacts common in some sports.”

Read ‘Risk of Dementia After Hospitalization Due to Traumatic Brain Injury: A Longitudinal, Population-Based Study’ in Neurology.

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