Alzheimer’s and Antidepressants make TBI more likely

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If you were just judging by the media coverage, you could be forgiven for thinking that sports like football are the leading causes of traumatic brain injury. That is not the case, though, as aging adults are one of the most likely demographics to experience a concussion or TBI.

Now, new research published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy suggests aging adults with Alzheimer’s face a uniquely high risk of traumatic brain injury, particularly if they are taking antidepressant medications.

As the researchers from the University of Eastern Finland note, past research has shown that antidepressants can make older adults more at risk for falls or other injuries like hip fractures, their relationship to head injuries had yet to be studied.

To determine if Alzheimer’s patients taking antidepressants were more at risk for TBI, the researchers analyzed data collected by the MEDALZ study, which includes information from all community-dwelling persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Finland between 2005 and 2011. The data included information from 10,910 antidepressant users and 21,820 nonusers.

The results showed that head injuries were more likely the older an individual got, and were most often caused by falling. Since past studies have tied antidepressant use to falling more often, the team says they were not shocked to see that antidepressants also made head injuries more likely.

“However, our findings give cause for concern because persons with Alzheimer’s disease frequently use antidepressants, which have been considered a safer alternative to, for example, benzodiazepines,” said senior researcher Dr. Heidi Taipale from the University of Eastern Finland.

“Our study population consisted of persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but it is likely that the risk is similar also in other older persons without Alzheimer’s disease. This is something we will be studying in the future.”

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