JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Beyond the battlefield, our military men and women face a new fight.
A new study shows service members face an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia later in life.
When we think of military members and the injuries they deal with, we think of the obvious, visible injuries suffered defending our country. Sometimes it's the internal damage that becomes their biggest challenge.
They are called invisible wounds by the Wounded Warrior Project.
"We will probably many more studies in the future to really understand how much greater at risk this population of warfighters is to developing Alzheimer's as well as dementia," said Alex Balbir, who is with the Wounded Warrior Project.
According to the study by the group Veterans Against Alzheimer's, enrollees with the Department of Veterans Affairs who have Alzheimer's doubled between 2004 and 2014.
The study also says more than 750,000 older veterans across the country suffer from the disease or other forms of dementia.
Balbir with says they are also seeing risk factors in younger vets, which is why the organization has so many mental health options to help vets deal with issues.
"Connecting them to each other where they're comfortable to start talking about issues such as 'I forgot or I keep on forgetting where I put stuff,' or 'I don't know where my keys are,' or 'I'm having some issues with my emotional problems.' There are now talking to each other and talking to us. That is an excellent form of intervention," said Balbir.
The study found that common post-military issues like traumatic brain injury or PTSD significantly increase the risk of developing the disease.
Balbir says it's easier to diagnose these things now because there is a much more open conversation about mental health than in the past, but he says it may take years and many more studies before the full correlation between these injuries and Alzheimer's is known.