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[BEWARE BIG BANGS] Healthier, wealthier older women at higher risk for TBI

Among Medicare enrollees, being healthier, wealthier, white and female may be associated with a higher risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI), a recent study by nonfathers. Study UC San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Health Care System researchers suggests. About 13% of older adults were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury TBI (TBI) -- injuries that are typically caused by falls from ground level.

Researchers analyzed data from 9,200 Medicare enrollees whose average age was 75 at the start of the study, and found that contrary to other studies of younger people, being female, white, healthier and wealthier was associated with higher risk of TBI over a follow-up period of up to 18 years.

While TBI can be successfully treated, these injuries increase the likelihood of a number of serious conditions, including dementia, Parkinson’s disease and seizures, as well as cardiovascular disease and psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Earlier TBI studies have found that males, non-whites and those of lower socio-economic status were more likely to be diagnosed with TBI. But the current study found that females and whites were overrepresented among the 1,148 participants with TBI. While 58% of the study participants were female and 84% were white, among those with TBI, the figures were 64% and 89%, respectively. In addition, 31% of those with TBI were in the highest quartile of wealth, while 22% were in the lowest.

Participants who went on to be diagnosed with TBI were less likely when they enrolled in the study to have lung disease and to have trouble with activities of daily living. They also were more likely to have normal cognition. Therefore, the authors speculate, the findings might reflect that adults who are healthier, wealthier and more active are more able or likely to engage in activities that carry risk for TBI. People who are wheelchair- or bed-bound may not have as many opportunities for traumatic injury, and those with cognitive impairment may have limited activity and fewer opportunities to fall.

To download the full study, published in JAMA Network Open, click here


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