June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada, so here are our top articles discussing concussion, traumatic brain injury, dementia, hypertension, and sleep apnea – and other factors that can affect the brain health.
You may not think that brain injuries are a large problem, but they are in fact becoming a silent epidemic in Canada and are the number one killer in adults over the age of 44. Furthermore, men are more likely to experience a brain injury than women.
To keep you informed of this important health problem, we have compiled a list of our top news stories that discuss brain injuries and related topics.
Concussion (traumatic brain injury) increases the risk of dementia in seniors. Roughly 1.7 million Americans experience a minor concussion annually, and nearly 15 percent of those who experience repeated brain injuries suffer from abnormal brain functioning years later.
A concussion can occur due to a sports injury, car accident, or any other injury that occurs to the head.
It’s been found that adults in their mid-50s who experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) like concussion have a higher risk of developing dementia. First author Raquel C. Gardner said, “I hope that these results will highlight the critical importance of preventing falls in older adults. Fall prevention will not only prevent bodily injury, but may even help prevent dementia.”
Over 66 percent of hospital admittance for traumatic brain injuries is for those over the age of 55. The highest rate of patients with traumatic brain injuries are those over the age of 75.
There are minimal studies that reveal the link between traumatic brain injuries and the risk of dementia, which have yielded conflicting results. The study conducted by Dr. Gardner and colleagues examined this associated risk by including non-TBI trauma (NTT) patients as controls.
The researchers identified 164,661 patients over the age of 55 diagnosed with either TBI or NTT, all without dementia. During the five- to seven-year follow-up period, 8.4 percent of patients with TBI developed dementia compared to 5.9 percent with NTT. Diagnosis of dementia in TBI patients was 3.2 years sooner than the NTT group. The researchers found that TBI was closely associated with a higher risk of dementia. Continue reading…
A hypertension drug has been shown to block traumatic brain injury (TBI) inflammations caused by liver proteins. TBI has been shown to affect the body as well as the brain in animal studies. The findings were uncovered by researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Researchers found that brain injuries produce an inflammatory response, in particular within the liver. In return, the liver boosts protein production, which increases inflammation in the brain, contributing to chronic inflammation, nerve cell death, and reduction in blood flow.
In mice models, the researchers found that using a drug to treat hypertension blocks the production of a particular molecule which can reduce inflammation. When this molecule is blocked, it allows the brain to better heal. Researchers report that 1.7 million-plus people experience a TBI annually, and uncovering a treatment could greatly improve their health.
Lead researcher Sonia Villapol said, “To date, treatment of TBI consists of supportive care and rehabilitation because there has been no way to reduce the inflammatory damage that occurs right after head injury trauma and continuously thereafter. And our findings suggest a treatment for both the brain and body would play a critical role in this chronic inflammatory response.” Continue reading…
Sleep apnea prevalence was found to be higher in injuries associated with brain stem stroke. Lead author of the study Dr. Devin L. Brown said, “This is the largest population-based study to address the issue of the location of the brain injury and its relationship to sleep apnea in post-stroke patients.”
The study included 355 ischemic stroke patients over the age of 65, with 55 percent of them being men. The participants were enrolled in the Brain Attack Surveillance in Corpus Christi (BASIC) Project. They were screened for sleep apnea using a portable respiratory monitor for about 13 days after a stroke.
Neurologists also interpreted CT and MRI brain scans to determine whether the patients had brain stem involvement or no brain stem involvement. Of the 11 percent of participants who had a brain stem injury 84 percent had sleep apnea. Fifty-nine percent of participants without brain stem involvement had sleep apnea.
Dr. Brown added, “While these numbers are high, more research into the relationship between stroke and sleep apnea is needed before we recommend routine sleep apnea screening in post-stroke patients.”
Future research is set out to further explore the connection between sleep apnea and stroke. Continue reading…
A diet high in fructose has been linked to weight gain for a long time, but now neuroscientists believe processed fructose could impact the ability to heal after head trauma, putting nutrition and brain injury in the spotlight.
Fructose is a link in the metabolism of glucose. Yet, there is no real need for dietary fructose. When ingested by itself, fructose is not absorbed very well and is mostly cleared by the liver. When the liver gets overloaded, it starts turning the fructose into fat.
Although it seems to be common knowledge that a diet high in sugar is not a good idea, statistics show that high fructose corn syrup intake in the United States amounts to overwhelming 55 pounds per person each year.
In the United States, a sweetener called HFCS is added to processed foods, including breads, cereals, soups, lunchmeats, and condiments. It’s actually made up of sucrose and fructose – mostly fructose. In its natural form, (fruit) paired up with fiber, it has a much slower absorption rate. This means, there are lower risks of insulin spike and diabetes. It is very different from processed fructose found in corn syrup.
Over the years, studies have suggested there are many negative effects of fructose. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer have been linked to fructose. Continue reading…
Previous research has found that concussions and even milder head impacts can speed up the brain’s natural aging process. When a concussion or a head injury occurs, it causes signaling pathways in the brain to break down quicker, compared to a person who has never experienced a concussion of head trauma.
Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology and U-M Health system looked at college students without a history of concussions and uncovered changes to gait, balance, and the brain’s electrical activity. The effects were seen up to six years after the head injury occurred, even though the changes were subtle and both groups of students acted the same.
Steven Broglio, assistant professor of kinesiology and director of the Neurotrauma Research Laboratory, said, “The last thing we want is for people to panic. Just because you’ve had a concussion does not mean your brain will age more quickly or you’ll get Alzheimer’s. We are only proposing how being hit in the head may lead to these other conditions, but we don’t know how it all goes together just yet.”
Along with a concussion or head injury, Broglio outlined other risk factors that could speed up brain aging, including smoking, exercise, diet, alcohol consumption, and family history. Continue reading…