Wellness Safety Older adults

Prior head injury a ‘significant’ risk factor for dementia: study

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Photo: kupicoo/iStockphoto

Philadelphia — Are you one of the millions of people in the United States who have suffered a head injury? If so, you may have an elevated risk for developing dementia later in life, according to the results of a recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania.

Researchers used data from more than 14,000 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Nearly a quarter (24%) of the participants had experienced at least one head injury. The researchers used cognitive assessments, interviews, medical codes and death certificate codes to identify cases of dementia among the participants, who were followed for a median of 25 years.

When compared with participants who didn’t have a previous head injury, those who did were 1.25 times more likely to develop dementia. That risk was two times greater for those who had multiple head injuries. Overall, nearly 10% of all the dementia cases in the study population could be attributed to at least one prior head injury.

“Head injury is a significant risk factor for dementia, but it’s one that can be prevented,” lead study author Andrea L.C. Schneider, an assistant professor of neurology at Penn, said in a press release. “Our findings show that the number of head injuries matter – more head injuries are associated with greater risk for dementia.


“While head injury is not the only risk factor for dementia, it is one risk factor for dementia that is modifiable by behavior change such as wearing helmets and seat belts.”

The study was published online March 9 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

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