Persons with Alzheimer’s disease have a higher risk of head injuries

Persons with Alzheimer’s disease have approximately 30% higher risk of head injuries, and 50% higher risk of traumatic brain injuries than persons without Alzheimer’s disease, a recent study from University of Eastern Finland shows. The results were published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

This is the first study that has assessed the incidence of head and traumatic brain injuries among persons with Alzheimer’s disease. Falls are the most common cause of head injuries in older adults, and persons with Alzheimer’s disease are known to have a higher risk of falling. The findings of this study highlight the importance of fall prevention, as head injuries can shorten the life expectancy and deteriorate a person's functional capacity. For persons with Alzheimer disease, head injuries may lead to the loss of activities of daily living and independence, and to the need of residential care even at early stages of the disease.

This study was conducted in the nationwide register-based MEDALZ cohort which included all community-dwelling persons who received an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in Finland 2005-2011. From the overall cohort, 67,172 persons without a previous head injury were selected to the study. For comparison purposes, a matching person with neither Alzheimer’s disease nor a previous head injury was identified with respect to age, sex and university hospital district.

For further information, please contact:

Professor Sirpa Hartikainen, School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland, sirpa.hartikainen@uef.fi

Research article:
Ilmaniemi S, Taipale H, Tanskanen A, Tiihonen J, Hartikainen S, Tolppanen AM. Incidence of head injury and traumatic brain injury among people with Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, published online ahead of print 19.2.2019, doi:10.1136/jech-2018-211960

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The University of Eastern Finland, UEF, is one of the largest universities in Finland. The activities of the UEF underscore multidisciplinarity, and the university is especially strong in research related to forests and the environment, health and well-being, and new technologies and materials. The UEF offers teaching in more than 100 major subjects. In addition to the high standard of teaching, the university offers its students a modern study environment, which is under constant development. The university comprises four faculties: the Philosophical Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The university’s campuses are located in the heart of beautiful eastern Finland in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The UEF is home to approximately 15 000 students and nearly 2 800 members of staff.

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