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Veterans with PTSD more likely suffer dementia

More unsettling news for veterans still carrying the wounds of war: A new study published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder may have a higher risk of dementia than their well-adjusted peers.

The study, which tracked 10,481 veterans at least 65 years of age, found that 11 percent of veterans struggling with PTSD but without other combat wounds developed dementia, compared to only 4.5 percent of their peers. Among combat wounded veterans 7.2 percent of those with PTSD developed dementia, while only 5.9 percent of their peers did.

Senior study author Dr. Mark Kunik, a psychiatrist at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, said in a statement the findings could have major implications for the long-term health of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Although we cannot at this time determine the cause for this increased risk, it is essential to determine whether the risk of dementia can be reduced by effectively treating PTSD," he said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently relaxed its rules regarding PTSD compensation, in a broader effort to get more veterans suffering from the disorder to seek treatment from medical professionals.

Researchers for the new study said that more investigation is needed to find out why the two illnesses are linked together, but the results could one day benefit not just veterans but also civilians suffering from traumatic stress injuries.

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