The following item appeared in the LEGION magazine under the “Health File” compiled by Sharon Adams (December 19, 2010)
Post-traumatic stress disorder increases a veteran’s risk of developing dementia, new U.S. research suggests. Researchers gathered data for a decade on 10,481 veterans 65 and older who had been seen at least twice between 1997 and 1999 at a Department of Veterans Affairs medical centre in Texas.
Overall, 36.4 per cent of the veterans in the study had PTSD. Among veterans not injured in combat, 11.1 per cent of those with PTSD developed dementia compared to 4.5 per cent of those without the disorder. Among those injured in combat, 7.2 per cent with PTSD developed dementia compared to 5.9 per cent of non-PTSD patients.
“Although we cannot at this time determine the cause for this increased risk, it is essential to determine whether the risk of dementia can be reduced by effectively treating PTSD,” Dr. Mark Kunik, senior author of the study that appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, said in a press release. He is also a psychiatrist with the DeBakey VA Medical Center in Texas.
This confirms earlier research from San Francisco reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center studied 180,000 veterans 55 and older for seven years. At the beginning of the study 30 per cent had PTSD, but none had dementia; nearly 11 per cent of the veterans with PTSD developed dementia later, compared to seven per cent of those without PTSD.
Further research is needed to determine if years of stress causes changes to the brain. PTSD has also been linked to increased risk of heart and vascular disease; metabolic syndrome, which leads to diabetes; and substance abuse.