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Post-traumatic stress disorder increases Dementia Risk in Veterans

Posted Jul 13 2009 11:35pm


The study followed 181,093 veterans aged 55 years and older without dementia.
  • 53,155 veterans diagnosed with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • and, 127,938 veterans without PTSD
  • The study used data from the Department of Veterans Affairs National Patient Care Database.
The study found that in a predominately male veteran population, those diagnosed with PTSD were at a nearly two-fold higher risk of developing dementia compared to veterans without PTSD.
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PTSD Linked to Nearly Double Dementia Risk in Veterans

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among veterans returning from combat and there is some evidence that it may be associated with reduced cognitive function. However, no study has yet investigated if PTSD increases the risk of developing dementia.

To address this emerging issue, Kristine Yaffe, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology and Epidemiology and Associate Chair of Research for the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and Chief of Geriatric Psychiatry and Director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, and colleagues sought to determine if PTSD is associated with risk of developing dementia among older veterans in the U.S. receiving treatment in veterans' medical centers.

They studied 181,093 veterans aged 55 years and older without dementia (53,155 veterans diagnosed with PTSD and 127,938 veterans without PTSD) using data from the Department of Veterans Affairs National Patient Care Database. Mean baseline age of the veterans was 68.8 years and 97% were male. They followed the veterans from 2001 through 2007, including tracking whether they were diagnosed with Alzheimer's/dementia.

The researchers found that veterans with PTSD in the study developed new cases of dementia at a rate of 10.6% over the seven years of follow-up; those without PTSD had a rate of 6.6%. (Note: This is updated data from the researcher, which is why it differs from the attached abstract.) Even after adjusting for demographics, and medical and psychiatric comorbidities, PTSD patients in this study were still nearly twice as likely to develop incident dementia compared to veterans without PTSD (HR = 1.8, 95% CI 1.7-1.9). Results were similar when they excluded those with a history of traumatic brain injury, substance abuse or depression.

"It is critical to follow patients with PTSD, and evaluate them early for dementia," Yaffe said. "Further research is needed to fully understand what links these two important disorders. With that knowledge we may be able to find ways to reduce the increased risk of dementia associated with PTSD."

Kristine Yaffe, Eric Vittinghoff, Karla Lindquist, Deborah E. Barnes, Kenneth E. Covinsky, Thomas Neylan, Molly Kluse, Charles Marmar
UCSF, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Contact e-mail: Kristine.Yaffe@ucsf.edu

About ICAD 2009

The 2009 Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (ICAD 2009) brings together more than 5,000 researchers from 60 countries to share groundbreaking research and information on the cause, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. As a part of the Association's research program, ICAD 2009 serves as a catalyst for generating new knowledge about dementia and fostering a vital, collegial research community. ICAD 2009 will be held in Vienna, Austria at Messe Wien Exhibition and Congress Center from July 11–16.

Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for advice and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 700 articles with more than 18,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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