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Concussions may be related to Alzheimer's disease

Category: General Wellness

According to a new study, a history of concussions involving momentary loss of consciousness might be linked to plaque buildup associated with Alzheimer's disease. Published in Neurology, a journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers conducted lab tests on brain scans of elderly participants in the Minnesota area.

The team of scientists, led by Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., examined brain scans of adults aged 70 or older in Olmsted County. In the group, 448 people had no signs of memory problems and 141 had minor cognitive problems. Additionally, the participants were asked if they had experienced any loss of consciousness or memory as a result of receiving trauma to the brain.

The researchers found that out of the 448 participants with no cognitive issues, 17 percent stated that they had experienced a brain injury. On the other hand, of the 141 people with a history of memory difficulties, 18 percent reported they had experienced a concussion or another form of head trauma.

Additional research into the participants' brain scans showed that the individuals with thinking impairments and a history of concussions had levels of Alzheimer's-associated plaque buildup 18 percent higher than those without a history of brain trauma. However, the team found no changes in brain scan measurements of the participants without memory issues.

"Interestingly, in people with a history of concussion, a difference in the amount of brain plaques was found only in those with memory and thinking problems, not in those who were cognitively normal," Mielke said.

Although their research is compelling, Mielke felt that the lack of a link between the plaque buildup and participants without thinking problems means more research needs to be done, as the relationship is complex and requires in-depth analysis.

The dangers of concussions
Many news outlets have been covering the threat of concussions, especially when associated with high-contact sports such as football and hockey. Repeated instances of concussions can lead to many long-term complications later in life. According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals who have experienced a concussion are twice as likely to develop epilepsy within the first five years after sustaining the trauma.

One of the biggest threats of concussions is second impact syndrome. This occurs when an additional concussion is received before the symptoms of the first one have dissipated. It can result in rapid and deadly swelling of the brain.

It is important that individuals seek medical assistance if they feel they have experienced trauma to the brain.

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