Study: Ag­ing vets at greater risk for Alzheimer’s

Woonsocket Call - - SENIORS - Herb Weiss, LRI’12, is a Pawtucket writer cov­er­ing ag­ing, health­care, and med­i­cal is­sues. To pur­chase Taking Charge: Col­lected Sto­ries on Ag­ing Boldly, a col­lec­tion of 79 of his weekly commentaries, go to herb­weiss.com. Ar­ti­cle up­dated on Nov. 10, 2018.

On Mon­day, Oct. 2, 2017 at a press con­fer­ence US Against Alzheimer’ s, (UsA2), along with vet­er­ans groups, plan to re­lease an is­sue brief, “Vet­er­ans and Alzheimer’s Meet­ing the Cri­sis Head on,” with data in­di­cat­ing that many older vet­er­ans will face a unique risk fac­tor for Alzheimer’s as a direct re­sult of their mil­i­tary ser­vice.

Fol­low­ing the re­lease of this is­sue brief, on Tues­day evening at a re­cep­tion in room

106 of the Dirk­sen Sen­ate Of­fice Build­ing, UsA2, a Wash­ing­ton, DC-based Alzheimer’s ad­vo­cacy group whose mis­sion is to stop Alzheimer’s dis­ease by 2020, will launch Vet­er­ans Against Alzheimer’ s( VA 2), a na­tional net­work of vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies, mil­i­tary lead­ers, vet­er­ans groups, re­searchers, and clin­i­cians, to fo­cus on rais­ing aware­ness of the im­pact of Alzheimer’s and other de­men­tias on ac­tive and re­tired mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers.

Dra­matic in­crease in vet­er­ans with Alzheimer’s

Forty nine per­cent of those ag­ing vet­er­ans age 65 (World War II, Korea, Viet­nam and even younger vet­er­ans, from the Iraq and Afghanistan con­flicts in the com­ing decades), are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s com­pared to 15 per­cent of non­vet­er­ans over age 65, note the au­thors of the is­sue brief.

“There is a clear and com­pelling obli­ga­tion for greater sup­port to meet the needs of vet­er­ans with Alzheimer, they say. The is­sue brief pulls to­gether re­search study find­ings re­leased by the U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­eran’s Af­fairs (VA). On study es­ti­mates that more than 750,000 older vet­er­ans have Alzheimer’s dis­ease and other de­men­tias, an­other not­ing that the num­ber of en­rollee with Alzheimer’s grew 166 per­cent from roughly 145,000 in 2004 to 385,000 in 2014.

The “Mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s and mi­nor­ity vet­er­ans are pre­dicted to in­crease from 23.2 per­cent of the to­tal vet­eran pop­u­la­tion in 2017 to 32.8 per­cent in 2037, says a VA study.

The is­sue brief also cites study find­ings that in­di­cate that older vet­er­ans who have suf­fered a trau­matic brain in­jury (TBI) are 60 per­cent are more likely to de­velop de­men­tia, 22 per­cent of all com­bat wounds in Afghanistan and Iraq were brain in­juries, nearly dou­ble the rate seen dur­ing Viet­nam – in­creas­ing th­ese younger vet­er­ans’ life­time Alzheimer’s risk. Vet­er­ans also face a mul­ti­tude of bar­ri­ers to ef­fec­tive Alzheimer’s di­ag­no­sis and care, in­clud­ing a com­plex Vet­eran’s Ad­min­is­tra­tion health sys­tem, a lack of un­der­stand­ing about avail­able ben­e­fits, and a stigma re­lated to brain and men­tal health, say is­sue brief au­thors.

Ge­orge Vraden­burg, UsA2’s Chair­man and Co-Founder, sums up the mes­sage to Con­gress and fed­eral and state pol­icy mak­ers in the re­leased is­sue brief: “We need to un­der­stand so much more about why brain in­juries sus­tained in bat­tle put vet­er­ans at greater risk for Alzheimer’s. We must en­cour­age vet­er­ans to par­tic­i­pate in clin­i­cal stud­ies to learn about the long-term ef­fects of brain in­juries, so we can do ev­ery­thing in our power to mit­i­gate the im­pact on those who have given so much to this coun­try.”

Up­dat­ing Rhode Is­land’s Alzheimer’s plan ...

When for­mer Lt. Gov. Eliz­a­beth Roberts re­leased Rhode’s Alzheimer’s plan in 2013, to guide and co­or­di­nate the state’s ef­forts to care for those with de­bil­i­tat­ing Alzheimer’s and those who care for them, she called the re­port a ”liv­ing doc­u­ment, ” to be con­tin­u­ing up­dated as needed.

With the five-year up­date of the State’s plan be­ing due June 2019, to be sub­mit­ted to the Rhode Is­land Gen­eral Assem­bly, Lt. Gov. Dan McKee and the Ex­ec­u­tive Board of the Alzheimer’s dis­ease and re­lated dis­or­ders work­ing group, roll up their sleeves to meet that leg­isla­tive dead­line.

In 2013, 24,000 Rhode Is­lan­ders were af­flicted with Alzheimer’s dis­ease and other cog­ni­tive dis­or­ders and this num­ber will con­tinue to grow each year. With the state be­ing so small, every Rhode Is­lan­der is per­son­ally touched, ei­ther car­ing for a fam­ily mem­ber with the cog­ni­tive dis­or­der or know­ing some­one who is a care­giver or pa­tient.

When up­dat­ing, don’t for­get the needs of Rhode Is­land’s ag­ing vet­er­ans.

Founded in 2010, UsA­gain­stAlzheimer’s has worked to se­cure the na­tional goal of pre­vent­ing and ef­fec­tively treat­ing Alzheimer’s by 2025 and to as­sist in se­cur­ing nearly $500 mil­lion in ad­di­tional pub­lic fund­ing for Alzheimer’s re­search over the past few years. The non-profit’s global ef­forts has in­flu­enced the lead­ers of the world’s most pow­er­ful na­tions, the G7, to em­brace a sim­i­lar 2025 goal and to call for greater lev­els of re­search in­vest­ment and col­lab­o­ra­tion to com­bat Alzheimer’s. Fi­nally, UsA­gain­stAlzheimer’s works to forge phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try com­mit­ments to im­prove ef­fi­cien­cies for an ex­pe­dited drug dis­cov­ery and ap­proval process.

For de­tails on the up­dat­ing of Rhode Is­land’s Alzheimer’s Plan, call the of­fice of McKee at 401-222-2371.

Se­nior Beat

HERB WEISS

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