As American life expectancy grows longer, the concern now is for quality of life in those later years. Dementia can be caused by a variety of factors, from inherited risk to the foods we eat. But now, a new study indicates that even just one mild concussion can double your risk for dementia later in life—even if the injury is so mild that you don’t lose consciousness.
Bay-area researchers looked at the medical records of military veterans for the study, adjusting for other factors such as age, sex, race, education, and other health conditions. What they found was that the risk for dementia was 3.77 times higher for individuals who had a moderate to severe head trauma during their life compared to those who had none. Those who experienced a head injury that was less severe but resulted in unconsciousness had a 2.51times higher risk of dementia.
However, the real surprise came when researchers got to the last category: individuals who had experienced a concussion mild enough that they never lost consciousness. This includes head injuries so mild that the only symptoms are dizziness, loss of balance, loss of memory, and headache. These individuals experienced a 2.36 times increased risk of dementia.
The takeaway here is that even mild head injuries that don’t result in loss of consciousness or hospitalization are very damaging to the brain, and it emphasizes the need to seek medical attention even for a mild concussion, because clearly, when it comes to the brain there’s no such thing as a “mild” injury.
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