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This is a "Significant" Factor in Getting Dementia, Study Shows

It could up your chances by 1.25 times.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

An estimated 5 million adults are living with dementia, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and by 2060 that number is predicted to multiply to almost 14 million. Dementia isn't a disease or illness itself, but a term used to describe an "impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing everyday activities—" and isn't a normal part of aging. There are a number of risk factors of dementia, including age, family history, race/ethnicity and even heart health. Now, a recent study has identified something else that can up your chances of degenerative memory loss. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

Sustaining a Head Injury "Significantly" Increases Your Chances of Dementia

According to a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania published in the Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, sustaining a head injury may increase your chances of developing dementia later in life. Using data from over 14,000 people who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, they identified that a quarter (24%) had suffered a head injury. The participants were followed for a median of 25. Then, using cognitive assessments, interviews, medical codes and death certificate codes researchers were able to identify dementia cases. They determined that those who had suffered a head injury were 1.25 times more likely to develop dementia than those who hadn't. In total, one out of ten dementia cases were 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."

"Given the strong association of head injury with dementia, there is an important need for future research focused on prevention and intervention strategies aimed at reducing dementia after head injury," Schneider said. "The results of this study have already led to several ongoing research projects, including efforts to uncover the causes of head injury-related dementia as well as investigations into reasons underlying the observed sex and race differences in the risk of dementia associated with head injury."

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Here's Why You Lose Your Memory

"Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This damage interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. When brain cells cannot communicate normally, thinking, behavior and feelings can be affected," says the Alzheimer's Association. "The brain has many distinct regions, each of which is responsible for different functions (for example, memory, judgment and movement). When cells in a particular region are damaged, that region cannot carry out its functions normally. Different types of dementia are associated with particular types of brain cell damage in particular regions of the brain. For example, in Alzheimer's disease, high levels of certain proteins inside and outside brain cells make it hard for brain cells to stay healthy and to communicate with each other. The brain region called the hippocampus is the center of learning and memory in the brain, and the brain cells in this region are often the first to be damaged. That's why memory loss is often one of the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer's." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.