Veterans at higher risk for ALS

November 9, 2012 

A few weeks ago, studies found that NFL players are at greater risk of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Papers like this one ran stories about the news and rightfully so. But with Veterans Day approaching on Sunday, how many of us know that a much larger segment of our population -- military veterans -- also is at greater risk of Lou Gehrig’s Disease?

Studies have shown that military veterans are about twice as likely to die from ALS as the general public. It does not matter when or where they served in the military. Unfortunately there is no treatment. There is no cure. They will die from the disease in an average of just two to five years.

We do not know what causes ALS in veterans or NFL players. Is it head trauma? Excessive physical activity? Those are potential risk factors. But we do know that raising awareness of the risk faced by our veterans and know about the significant VA benefits that are available. Caregiver benefits are part of the VA benefits.

I encourage your readers to visit the Wall of Honor at www.alsa.org. There, people can read the stories and see the faces of hundreds of veterans living with ALS and those who already have been lost to the disease. There, they can see that ALS does not simply strike the stars we watch on TV every Sunday, but also our family members, friends and neighbors who have served in the military.

The writer lives in Florence.

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