In the movies, the hero takes a serious blow to the head, shakes it off, and continues on his quest to save the world with nary a symptom. In real life, a serious blow to the head often causes dementia symptoms later in life, something researchers are discovering by studying both war veterans and football players.
Research shows older veterans who experienced traumatic brain injury were twice as likely to develop dementia symptoms, and that football players who experienced concussions had a higher risk for developing symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition commonly known as “pre-Alzheimer’s.” A person with MCI has noticeable problems with learning, memory, and other cognitive functions, but that is not serious enough to interfere with daily life.
War Veterans Have Higher Risk of Dementia Symptoms
A study of older veterans who had previously received a traumatic brain injury showed 15 percent experienced dementia symptoms, compared to 7 percent for those who hadn’t been brain injured. Because traumatic brain injuries are known as the “signature wound” for the Irag and Afghanistan wars, affecting an estimated 230,000 veterans, researchers express concern for the risk of dementia symptoms later in life for today’s younger veterans.
Football Players Show High Risk of Dementia Symptoms
Retired professional football players are another group researchers examined in regards to a higher risk for dementia symptoms. Sixty percent of NFL athletes have suffered concussions, with nearly one-third reporting multiple concussions. Alzheimer’s screening questions suggested that more than 35 percent of the former NFL players showed dementia symptoms, compared to a 13 percent of the general population. Follow-up testing showed the former athletes were clearly impaired compared to demographically similar non-athletes, and significantly younger, as well.
Brain Swelling From Head Injury Can Cause Dementia Symptoms Later in Life
For both war vets and football players, researchers suggest swelling in the brain from the head injuries is accompanied by the accumulation of beta amyloid proteins, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.
Autopsies of athletes with a history of multiple concussions show brain degeneration and the accumulation of beta amyloid and tau proteins, characteristics of dementia symptoms and Alzheimer’s. Traumatic brain injuries can produce symptoms of memory loss, confusion, depression, aggression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which can appear months or years later after the damage is sustained.
The link has been blamed for several suicides of former NFL players, as well as multiple lawsuits claiming the NFL is concealing the link between the injuries and dementia symptoms. Fortunately, the military and the NFL are now joining forces to raise awareness of head injuries.
How to Lower Your Risk of Dementia Symptoms After Brain Injury
What does this mean for you if you have suffered a serious head injury and want to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s? Rest and rehabilitation immediately after the concussion is vital to allow for recovery. Beyond that, follow well-established preventive measures, such as eating a lower-carb, whole-foods diet, eliminating sodas, sweets, and sugar from your diet, exercising regularly, and keeping your brain active through learning new things, social activities, and a positive attitude. To learn more about natural remedies to prevent dementia symptoms, including boosting memory and cognition, click here.
 Brain Injury May More Than Double Dementia Risk in Older Veterans. Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. July 18, 2011.
 Mild Traumatic Brain Injury & Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. Grant L. Iverson, PhD. International Brain Injury Association. Issue 4 2006.