How brain injuries can lead to heart disease

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We often hear about brain injuries in the context of accidents, military combat, or sports like football.

While we know these injuries can lead to long-term issues like memory loss or even Alzheimer’s, new research is showing that they can also increase the risk of heart problems.

Doctors from Mass General Brigham have shared their findings in a review paper, suggesting that those who’ve had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be more likely to develop heart-related issues compared to the average person.

What We Know and What We Don’t

Up until now, most research on brain injuries has focused on how it affects the brain in the long run.

For instance, many studies show a link between brain injuries and diseases like Alzheimer’s. However, the exact reason for this connection is still not fully understood.

What is less well-known are the non-brain related problems that can follow a TBI.

The Mass General Brigham team highlights that heart issues, along with metabolic and hormonal imbalances, might also be triggered by brain injuries.

Conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, diabetes, and hormonal issues have been found more often in people with a history of TBI.

These conditions are known to contribute to cognitive decline and heart diseases, and they might be what links TBI to long-term brain issues.

Looking for Solutions and New Research Paths

The relationship between brain injuries and heart problems isn’t just a one-way street. When the brain is injured, it can cause inflammation and other reactions that might make someone more prone to developing heart-related conditions, like clogged arteries.

Even lifestyle changes after an injury, such as gaining weight or experiencing sleep problems, can add to this risk.

Researchers are also looking into how the gut’s health could play a role, as an injury might disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, leading to other health problems.

While more work needs to be done to understand all the details, the team calls for immediate action.

They stress the need for better screening to identify those at high risk of heart problems after a brain injury, and they also suggest more research should be carried out to identify the best ways to lower these risks.

In simple terms, if you or someone you know has had a traumatic brain injury, the consequences might go far beyond the immediate effects or even long-term brain issues.

It’s crucial for healthcare providers to recognize these links and incorporate heart health into the long-term care plans for TBI survivors.

Researchers hope that understanding these connections will lead to better care and quality of life for TBI survivors, reducing not only their risk of developing brain-related conditions but also heart problems.

By looking at the full picture, doctors can offer more comprehensive treatment options that take into account both the brain and the heart.

If you care about heart disease, please read studies about a big cause of heart failure, and common blood test could advance heart failure treatment.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about a new way to repair human heart, and results showing drinking coffee may help reduce heart failure risk.

The research findings can be found in Lancet Neurology.

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