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Military Life February 7, 2019

Alzheimer’s Disease: What Veterans Should Know

Maggie K., Senior Editor

Alzheimer's disease is more than just a form of dementia – it’s the sixth leading cause of adult deaths in the U.S. While Alzheimer’s disease can affect anyone, Veterans who experienced brain trauma during service are at an even higher risk for developing the disease.

In fact:

  • Veterans who experienced traumatic brain injuries are 60% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
  • Veterans who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are twice as likely as those without PTSD to develop dementia.

Dementia is a general term for disorders involving a decline in memory, thinking, judgment and learning ability.

Help Veterans get a grasp on this disease. Taking the right precautionary steps early on can help them get the medical intervention they need and possibly even slow down the progression of the disease.

Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease

Symptoms affect your daily life

Alzheimer's disease involves the deterioration of nerve cells in the brain, which affects thoughts, memory and language. Symptoms go beyond normal forgetfulness – they are consistent and affect your ability to function.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some warning signs include the following:

  • Forgetting recently learned information or asking for the same information multiple times
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks (e.g. getting lost while driving home, forgetting a favorite recipe)
  • Being confused about the time or place (e.g., forgetting periods of time, not remembering what day/month/year it is)
  • Experiencing new problems with speaking or writing (e.g., stopping mid-conversation, repeating things in the same conversation)
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Showing changes in mood or personality (e.g., confusion, suspicion, fear, depression)

In most people with Alzheimer’s disease, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s.

 

 Good brain health can slow down the disease

If you are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, show your brain a little TLC. With the right lifestyle changes, you may be able to prevent the disease or slow its progression. Studies suggest that you can keep your brain healthy for longer by adopting key lifestyle habits:

  • Get regular exercise (cardiovascular activity that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain).
  • Eat a healthy diet (balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit).
  • Stimulate your mind (play chess, complete a jigsaw puzzle, take up painting, etc.).
  • Get quality sleep (resolve problems such as insomnia or sleep apnea early on).
  • Quit smoking (smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline).
  • Lead an active social life (take up a hobby, help out in your community, volunteer your time).

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. This number is expected to nearly triple to 14 million by 2060.

Help from VA Is Available

It’s always important to be prepared. You and your loved ones should research and learn about the different services and access to care available for Veterans with Alzheimer’s disease. You may be eligible for certain VA benefits, including home-based primary carenursing home services and more. Get informed now so that you don’t have the added stress of finding support if you’re ever diagnosed.

For more information, visit the VA’s Geriatrics and Extended Care webpage.

For more information on our health and wellness products, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Healthy Caregiving.

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