Do Concussions Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?

do concussions cause alzheimers

There has been a lot of concern as to whether concussions cause Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the medical field.

This is mostly because the immediate effects of a head injury can include symptoms that are seen in the disease. These would be memory loss, confusion, and changes in speech, personality, and vision.

Can Concussions Increase Risk for Alzheimer’s

These symptoms can quickly vanish, last for some time, or become permanent depending on the severity of the injury.

Also, the symptoms that develop after an injury in most cases will not become worse over time something synonymous with AD.

This said some kinds of head injuries increase the risk of a person developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

Concussions can stimulate cognitive decline

concussions can stimulate cognitive decline
Research reveals that concussions can accelerate the development of cognitive decline and brain atrophy.

These relate to Alzheimer’s in people who are at the genetic risk of this progressive illness.

This is especially true for people who carry one form of the APOE (apolipoprotein) gene. This gene has the potential to increase the risk of AD.

These findings are documented in the journal Brain and they show promise of identifying the influence that concussions have on neurodegeneration.

One of the environmental risk factors of developing neurodegenerative illnesses such as late-onset Alzheimer’s is a moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury.

It is still not yet clear whether concussion or mild traumatic brain injury also contribute to increasing the risk.

Several studies have been conducted to try and establish the link between Alzheimer’s disease and concussions. Check out details of a few of these studies below.

Researchers from BUSM (Boston University School of Medicine), observed 160 war veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The group comprised some people who had never suffered a concussion and others who had suffered one or more concussions.

The researchers measured the thickness of the participant’s cerebral cortex using MRI imaging in 7 regions. These are usually the first to indicate atrophy in AD and 7 control regions.

The experts stated that they found that lower cortical thickness in some of the regions of the brain caused by a concussion was first to be affected in AD.

Assistant professor of psychiatry at BUSM and research psychologist at the National Centre for PTSD Jasmeet Hayes, Ph.D. and corresponding author of the study explained that the results suggested that concussions when combined with genetic factors may be associated with accelerated memory decline and cortical thickness in areas that are relevant to Alzheimer’s.

Concussions have an impact on the young brain, too

concussions have an impact on the young brain
The researchers noted that the brain abnormalities appeared in a relatively young group. The average age of the participants was 32 years.

The researchers translated this to imply that the influence of concussions on neurodegeneration can be detected early in a person’s lifetime.

They, therefore, advised that after suffering a concussion, it is important to document as much as possible.

But at least when it happened and the symptoms that a person showcased. This is because when concussions combine with other factors like genetics, they can cause long-term health consequences.

The experts were hopeful that other researchers will build on their findings to give a clear answer when asked if concussions cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Head injuries can cause AD twice as likely

head injuries can cause AD twice as likely
Another study revealed that young adults who suffer from moderate or severe head injury are two times likely to develop AD later in life.

This was after Dr. Brenda Plassman and her colleagues from Duke University Medical Centre in Durham, North Carolina conducted research trying to find the link between Alzheimer’s and head injury in over 7000 US marine and Navy veterans from World War II.

The subjects of the study included 548 veterans who had experienced a head injury and 1228 who did not have any head injuries.

The experts discovered that people with a history of head injury were more than double the risk of developing AD.

Moderate head injury was associated with a 2.3 times increase in risk.

In addition to that, severe head injury was associated with more than 4 times the risk.

Severe head injury, in this case, was one where a person remained unconscious and was admitted to a hospital.

Moderate injury referred to bouts of amnesia or loss of consciousness that lasts for less than 30 minutes after the injury.

Do genes have a role?

do genes have a role
The experts also went ahead to test for the presence of the apolipoprotein E gene. Participants who had this gene were 14 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Because there was no apparent relationship with a head injury and APOE gene, the researchers suggested that more work is necessary.

This will allow us to understand the effects of the gene and a head injury better. Potentially, more research will also give a better understanding of the causes of AD.

Yet another study reported that brain scans of elderly persons with a prior head injury and poor memory have more build-up of plaque associated with AD which supports that concussions may cause Alzheimer’s disease.

In this study associate professor of neurology and epidemiology at Mayo Clinic Rochester and her team evaluated 448 residents of Olmsted County who did not have any signs of memory problems.

They also studied 141 residents who had mild cognitive impairment (thinking and memory problems).

All the participants of this study were 70 years and above.

Before the study, they all reported whether they had experienced a brain injury that caused the loss of memory or consciousness.

The researchers conducted brain scans on all the subjects.

The results revealed that persons who had cognitive impairment and concussion history had amyloid plaques levels that were 18% higher than those who did not have a history of head trauma but had cognitive impairment.

They concluded that the link between concussions and AD is quite complex. This is because the results showed an association but not a cause and effect link.

Risk Factors for Developing Alzheimer’s After a Concussion

risk factors for developing alzheimers after a concussion
Scientific research supports the idea that suffering concussions may increase the chances of a person developing AD.

Some factors also seem to affect the risk of concussions causing Alzheimer’s disease and these include:

Age

The age when a person suffers from a concussion may have an impact on whether they end up developing AD.

Several studies suggest that suffering concussions at a young age increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This applies to when a person is older.

The severity of the Injury

The risk of concussions causing Alzheimer’s disease increases with the severity of the injury.

Repeated mild injuries may also increase an individual’s risk for future problems with reasoning and thinking.

Conclusion

Keep in mind, although concussions can increase the risk of developing AD, other factors also play a role.

Not everyone who suffers a severe head injury will end up developing the disease.

More research is still necessary to understand the link between Alzheimer’s disease and concussions.

What is the Average Age for Alzheimer’s Disease?

average age for alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most common causes of dementia among seniors which leads to the question of what is the average age for Alzheimer’s.

What is the typical age for Alzheimer’s?

There are two categories of Alzheimer’s disease, which we further investigate below.

Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

late onset alzheimer's disease
Late-onset AD normally affects people who are 60 years and above when Alzheimer’s symptoms become more apparent.

National Institute on Aging reports that the number of individuals who have AD doubles after 5 years for persons who are above 65 years.

Around 3% of women and men who are between the ages of 65-74 have the illness.

Almost half of those who are 85 years and older are diagnosed with AD.

A study performed in East Boston, Massachusetts observing 32,000 non-institutionalized persons aged 65 and above revealed that the prevalence of AD was 10% for seniors who were 65 years and over and 47% for those who are older than 85.

Pharmaceutical Technology reports that the prevalence of AD increases as a person grows older.

However, the greatest burden of the progressive disease exists in persons between the ages of 80-89 years.

Keep in mind that although increasing age is one of the risk factors for AD, old age does not make a person develop Alzheimer’s.

Many people live well into their 90s without developing AD.

Researchers have not pin-pointed the exact gene that causes late-onset Alzheimer’s.

Nonetheless, there is a single genetic risk factor that involves having one allele or form of APOE (apolipoprotein E) gene on chromosome 19 which is known to increase an individual’s risk.

Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

early onset alzheimer's
Although Alzheimer’s is common in older adults, this is not always the case.

It is important to note that the average age for Alzheimer’s is not limited to people who are above 60.

It can also affect younger individuals who are in their 30s and 40s.

This, however, is a rare occurrence that accounts for about 5% of people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

When this happens, we call it younger-onset or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Research shows that an inherited change in one of the three genes causes some of the cases.

Still, other generic components can cause the rest of the cases. Experts are working to identify other genetic risk variants for young-onset AD.

Experts believe that the age a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s usually has a huge impact on their life expectancy.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health revealed that a person can live longer after an earlier diagnosis.

They discovered that the average survival rate for individuals who get AD diagnosis at the age of 65 is about 8 years.

This is different for people who get their diagnosis at 90 years because their average life expectancy is around 3 years.

Reasons Rate of Alzheimer’s Disease Increases with Age

average age for Alzheimer’s
When talking about the average age for Alzheimer’s, it is important to discuss the reasons the illness increases with age.

Healthy brains clear out amyloid-beta (proteins that cause AD) regularly. This ability tends to slow down as people grow older.

A study from The Washington University School of Medicine shows that for people in their 30’s a healthy brain will clear amyloid-beta every 4 hours.

When a person is 80 the brain may take at least 10 hours to complete the job. This may explain the relationship between Alzheimer’s and age.

Coping with Alzheimer’s and Diarrhea

alzheimer's and diarrhea

Many elderly persons at some point in their lives may have to deal with Alzheimer’s and diarrhea.

Diarrhea happens when an individual gets three or more watery or unformed stools in 24 hours.

It can be a very tiring time for the affected individual as well as the caregivers.

Can Alzheimer’s cause diarrhea?

There are several reasons a person with Alzheimer’s may experience diarrhea and toilet problems, such as:

1. Medication side effect: Some Alzheimer’s drugs and other medications that a person may be taking could be the cause of diarrhea.
2. Viruses or bacteria: These infections can result in diarrhea.
3. Abdominal Surgery: At times recent surgery especially in the belly area around the gallbladder or intestines can cause diarrhea.
4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Most people who have cramps and diarrhea for no apparent reason may have IBS. This can be caused by stress, lack of exercise, and some food.
5. Malabsorption syndromes: This usually occurs when the body is not getting enough nutrients from the intestines. Examples of these include celiac disease and lactose intolerance.

After knowing some of the reasons persons with Alzheimer’s may get diarrhea, let’s look into some of the symptoms to be on the lookout for when someone has diarrhea.

Symptoms of Diarrhea

Several warning signs may showcase a person has diarrhea, such as:

  • Urgent need to have a bowel movement
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal Cramps or pain
  • Nausea
  • Mucus in stool
  • Bloody stool, chills, or fever are symptoms that can show up if it is bacteria or virus causing the unformed stool

With this in mind, it is time to jump into some of the coping mechanisms that can help deal with a person who has Alzheimer’s and diarrhea.

Increase Fluid Uptake

Alzheimer’s and diarrhea
A person who is going through diarrhea ends up losing a lot of fluids in their body and they are at risk of dehydration.

Caregivers should make sure the person with Alzheimer’s and diarrhea gets plenty to drink.

If an individual can keep liquids down, try and give them water, juice, sports drink, and soda but steer clear from anything that has caffeine or alcohol.

They should drink the fluids even though they are not feeling thirsty.

Apart from water, the other drinks help to put back potassium and sodium that diarrhea deprives the body.

If someone is vomiting, they may not be able to keep the liquids down. This calls for improvising where you feed them small amounts of liquids say one or two tablespoons after every 15 minutes.

If this is not sustainable, you may need to head to the doctors so that the suffering individual can be put on IV fluids.

Offer Easy-to-Digest and Low-Fiber Foods

offer easy to digest and low fiber foods
A person who has diarrhea needs to eat foods that are high in fiber and are easy to digest.

Examples of these include eggs, toast, saltine crackers, rice, chicken, or yogurt.

When giving cooked food make sure they are well-cleaned and cooked so that the foods do not end up making the problem worse.

It is advisable to stay away from heavily seasoned foods, spicy meals, and foods that have high-fat content. Cabbage, beans, raw vegetables, and fruits can also make diarrhea worse.

Avoid Medication

avoid medication
Where necessary, it is usually best to avoid medication when dealing with Alzheimer’s and diarrhea.

This is because diarrhea helps to eliminate viral or bacterial infections.

If a person takes the drugs, the infection may end up staying longer in the body causing more problems. In most cases, diarrhea episodes will last for two days and clear up on their own.

However, if a person must take medication, it is best to seek advice from an expert medic to get a proper prescription.

Keep in mind that the affected individual should stay away from medication if they have a high fever, have been constipated recently, has a swollen belly, or still has diarrhea even after two days.

It is also not advisable for the person to take medication if they have black, tarry stool, blood in the stool, or stool that has a cranberry color.

Use of Supplements

use of supplements
Some supplements can help deal with diarrhea for persons who have dementia.

However, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking anything so that the professional can give you the green light or offer some solid recommendations.

The most common supplements include probiotics that feature normal intestinal bacteria that can help successfully stop the watery stools.

Ensure the Person is as Comfortable as Possible

ensure the person is as comfortable as possible
Diarrhea comes with a lot of discomforts; thus, it is important to make sure that the affected individuals end up feeling as comfortable as possible.

If possible, the person should stay near the washroom so that they can dash in anytime they need to use the toilet.

When mobility is an issue, caregivers may want to consider the use of adult diapers, pads.

Approach this topic with caution because it can be embarrassing for a person who has never used them before.

Change the “briefs” often so that they are not the cause of additional discomfort during the diarrhea period.

Consult a Doctor

consult a doctor
If you try most home remedies and they do not seem to work for Alzheimer’s and diarrhea, it is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

The professional will run the necessary tests and offer proper medication.

Other circumstances where it is important to call the doctor include:

  • When a person has had over six watery or unformed stools within two hours
  • If diarrhea happens right after constipation
  • Pale, greasy, and foul-smelling stools
  • Diarrhea that goes on for more than 7 days
  • Diarrhea that is accompanied by a low-grade fever of about 99-101 F (37.2-38.3 °C) that lasts for over 48 hours
  • When there is blood in the stool
  • If vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea

Naturally, a person who has diarrhea may not want to walk into the doctor’s office.

At this point, you may want to consider the services of mobile healthcare professionals.

The experts will travel to the patient and offer home treatment that many persons with Alzheimer’s and diarrhea may prefer.

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