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Head trauma victims more likely to develop Alzheimer's

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A team of researchers at the Mayo Clinic led by Michelle Mielke have found evidence that patients who suffer from concussions may be at greater risk for developing amyloid beta plaque on the brain most closely tied to Alzheimer’s disease after scanning the brains of 589 people ages 70 or older.

According to Mielke, “141 of them had symptoms of mild cognitive impairment, 18% of which reported having suffered a concussion or other head trauma at some point in their lives.” Her team also discovered that “17% the remaining 448 people without thinking or memory problems reported a brain injury.”

“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 stated. “Our results add merit to the idea that concussion and Alzheimer’s disease brain pathology may be related, even if we couldn’t prove causation.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, past studies have been connecting brain tissue injuries to dementia and other cognitive problems for more than 30 years. Still, Keith Fargo, director of publications and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, called Mielke’s study “intriguing,’ although he noted a lot more research needs to be done, especially “long-term ones that follow people throughout their lives.”

Note: Similar studies are now being conducted throughout the country regarding repeated blows to the head caused by violent sports such as boxing, football, and hockey, etc. which often lead to the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (once referred to as being “punch drunk”).

First described in boxers in 1928, who showed signs of confusion, slurred speech, slowed movement, and tremors, CTE defined by numerous neurological and physiological changes in the brain including the buildup of an abnormal protein called tau, which “clumps in and around the brain disrupting its function.”

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