June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month — a time to shed light on bruises that don’t show. The Alzheimer’s Association provides opportunities to join conversations about the brain; they state that everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s, a fatal disease that is often misunderstood. According to ctvnews.com, there’s growing evidence that repeated hits to the head can lead to early-onset dementia and that victims of domestic violence suffer brain injuries similar to those of football players.
Immediate injuries from domestic assault include chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, psychosomatic symptoms, eating problems, permanent bruises, sprains, broken bones or related injuries that turn into long term orthopedic issues, chronic fatigue, muscle tension, involuntary shaking, fertility issues, sexual dysfunction, and mental health problems such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, sleeping disorders, nightmares, low self-esteem, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts or attempts (stopvaw.org and joyfulheartfoundation.org).
Along with Alzheimer’s and dementia, another long-term effect of intimate partner violence is traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI is caused by a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. A rapid acceleration or deceleration of the head, which can force the brain to move back and forth inside the skull, can also cause TBI. The Sojourner Brain Program has found that as many as 20 million women each year could receive a domestic violence-related TBI and the vast majority of victims who show signs of traumatic brain injury never receive a formal diagnosis.
According to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women in violent relationships are 80 percent more likely to suffer a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, 70 percent more likely to become heavy drinkers, 60 percent more likely to become asthmatic, and those who suffer violence as adults are 1.5 times more likely to have narrowing of neck blood vessels than those who had not been victims.
If “something just doesn’t ‘feel’ right, you can get brain screening at the Traumatic Brain Injury Outpatient Program of Hennepin Healthcare (hennepinhealthcare.org.715) South 8th St., Minneapolis. They explain that if a person may ‘look fine’ recovering from injuries and can perform activities of daily living, but still “just don’t seem right” that person should be screened. Some symptoms may be headaches, trouble remembering or concentrating, or feeling dazed, tired or irritable all the time. Along with loss of balance, sensitivity to light or noise, blurred vision or ringing in the ears.
If you have a TBI or know someone that does, support groups are offered at the Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave S. on June 5 from 12:15-2 p.m. and June 21 from 10-11 a.m. To learn more about brain awareness visit akz.org.
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This article was written by Niema Broadnax