Head Injury Linked to Increased Risk of Alzheimer's Disease

Article excerpt

There may be one more reason to wear that bike helmet now, says epidemiologist Richard Havlik, MD, of the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md. Serious head injury in early adulthood may be linked to developing Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other forms of dementia later in life, according to Havlik and a team of researchers at NIA and Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

The researchers studied the records of more than 7,000 World War II male veterans who were sent to military hospitals with head injuries or unrelated conditions. They then tracked down 1,776 veterans who were eligible for the study--548 of whom had suffered a head injury. The remaining 1,228 without head injuries made up the control group. Telephone interviews with the veterans or a family member were used to determine the current cognitive and functional abilities of the men.

Study results suggested that the more severe the head injury, the greater the risk of developing AD or other forms of dementia. The risk was doubled for individuals with moderate head injury, and men with severe head injuries had a four-fold greater risk. Moderate injury was defined as a skull fracture, or amnesia or loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes but less than 24 hours. Severe injury was amnesia or loss of consciousness for 24 hours or more. …