9/11 first responders with PTSD are at an increased risk of cognitive decline and developing early-onset dementia, study finds
- Researchers examined 1,800 9/11 first responders and tested cognitive skills
- Nearly 15% had mild cognitive impairment, the stage between decline due to aging and decline from dementia
- Emergency workers with PTSD were 2.6 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment
Researchers say there may be a link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cognitive impairment in 9/11 first responders.
A new study from Stony Brook University in New York found that Ground Zero emergency workers with PTSD were 2.6 times more likely to have problems with memory and learning.
This could put as many as 60,000 men and women who worked in rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site at increased risk of early-onset dementia.
The team says doctors who treat 9/11 first responders with PTSD need to monitor them not just for symptoms of anxiety and depression but for early signs of cognitive decline.
A new study from Stony Brook University in New York has found that 9/11 first responders with PTSD are at an increased risk of developing early-onset dementia. Pictured: Hijacked United Airlines flight 175 flies toward the World Trade Center shortly before slamming into the south tower (left) on September 11, 2001
For the study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, the team looked at first responders who were treated at the Stony Brook World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program.
All 1,800 men and women had normal cognitive scores in 2014 and were tested for cognitive decline in 2015.
At follow-up testing, nearly 15 percent had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – the stage between decline due to aging and decline from dementia.
Suffers can have problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Approximately 15 to 20 percent of American aged 65 or older have MCI, putting them at greater risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The risk of suffering from cognitive impairment was 2.6 times higher among responders with more severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
‘One of the most concerning aspects of our findings is that we found a significant portion of responders have new onset cognitive impairment,’ said lead author Dr Sean Clouston, an associate professor in the family population and preventive medicine at Stony Brook University.
‘[This was surprising] when many of them were cognitively normal within just the past few years.’
Looking at blood samples, the researched also noticed higher levels of MCI in individuals who carry Apoliopoprotein-e4, a major known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
Dr Clouston said future research about possible early dementia in 9/11 responders should focus on risks such as severity of PTSD symptoms.
‘This study underlies the increasingly apparent evidence that PTSD is not merely a psychological condition but also can have significant pathological effects on the brain and body,’ said co-author Dr Benjamin Luft, director of the Stony Brook World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program.