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Director’s Corner

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Alzheimer’s is the Sixth Leading Cause of Death in the United States

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Larry D. Moore

Veterans who suffered brain injuries while in the service were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s decades later. Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) have a 60% greater chance of developing Dementia. Veterans who had multiple risk factors — such as PTSD, depression, or heart disease in addition to head injury — were more likely to develop dementia.

VA estimates there are 170,920 VA patients nationwide with Alzheimer’s dementia. Because of the projected growth of the disease, the number of VA patients with Alzheimer’s dementia is expected to grow 27 percent to about 217,000, by FY 2033, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA estimates that about 25 percent of the veterans in their memory units have had PTSD or TBIs.

VA is starting to see younger veterans affected. The VA is seeing people in their 50s occasionally and in their 40s who are having significant cognitive issues. Research has found that women with military-related risk factors had a 50% to 80% increase in developing dementia relative to women without these diagnoses. In addition, military veterans often have depression occurring with posttraumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

New treatment strategies for depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, or traumatic brain injury could as a result decrease the risk for dementia. The degree of combat exposure, Vietnam era Agent Orange exposure and Gulf War Illness may also influence risk for Alzheimer.

Using available data on the association of Alzheimer and specific exposures and risk factors, the VA conservatively estimated 423,000 new cases of Alzheimer in veterans by 2020, including 140,000 excess cases associated with specific military exposures. The rapidly climbing number of those affected with Alzheimer includes a growing population of aging military veterans affected who may have an added risk for the disease as a consequence of traumatic brain injury, posttraumatic stress disorder, and/or service-related injuries.

Veterans and military members, who have histories of TBI, PTSD should receive routine, regular screenings for signs of cognitive impairment and mental function. Veterans with dementia who seek VA care may be eligible for certain dementia care services including in-home care, community-based-outpatient, inpatient acute and long term care services.

In Appreciation,

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Executive Director

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