July 13, 2009

PTSD may nearly double dementia risk

U.S. researchers say having post-traumatic stress disorder nearly doubled the risk of dementia in veterans.

The study -- led by Dr. Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco VA Medical Center -- used data from the Department of Veterans Affairs National Patient Care Database to track 181,093 veterans age 55 and older without dementia from 2001-2007.

The 53,155 veterans in the study diagnosed with PTSD developed new cases of dementia at a rate of 10.6 percent over the seven years of follow-up. Those without PTSD developed new cases of dementia at a rate of 6.6 percent.

Even after adjusting for demographics and medical and psychiatric co-morbidities, PTSD patients in the study were still nearly twice as likely as veterans without PTSD to develop incident dementia.

It is critical to follow patients with PTSD, and evaluate them early for dementia, Yaffe says in a statement. 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.

The findings were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Vienna.