Increased Dementia Risk for Female Veterans Who Experienced Brain Injuries


In a study published in Neurology, it was found that women who served in the military and have traumatic brain injury (TBI), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or depression are more likely eventually to have dementia. 

In this study, 109,140 female veterans without dementia (mean age 69) who had received health care at a Veteran’s Administration (VA) facility including at least 1 follow up visit were followed for an average of 4 years. 

At the end of the study, 4% of all subjects had been diagnosed with dementia. After adjusting for dementia risk factors (eg, hypertension, diabetes, alcohol abuse), rates of dementia were found to be higher in women with TBI (5.7%), depression (5.2%), PTSD (3.9), or more than 1 of those (3.9%) compared with women without each diagnosis (3.4%). These rates are similar to what have previously been found in male veterans. 

In comparative risk analysis, women with TBI, PTSD, and depression had 50%, 80%, and 70% higher likelihoods of dementia, respectively, compared with women without each of those diagnoses. For women with more than 1 of the 3 conditions studied, the risk of developing dementia was twice as high as for women with none of the conditions. 

Study author Kristine Yaffe, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco noted, “Previous studies have shown that male veterans with these conditions may be at higher risk of dementia, but few studies have included female veterans. Understanding how these conditions affect women is critical as more women join the military, more women take on combat roles, and since women may be at greater risk for some of these conditions. These results highlight the need for increased screening. . . particularly among female veterans. . .”


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