Making Sense of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)
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Making Sense of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE, is a medical condition that's not often discussed. However, a deeper understanding of the condition is crucial, particularly for our senior population. CTE usually affects those with a history of repetitive brain trauma, such as retired athletes. 

At Senior Helpers Chicago/Evanston, we want to shed light on this complex issue. Ultimately, we want to help seniors and their loved ones make sense of CTE, its causes, symptoms, and potential risk management, and how they can effectively manage it. Note that the information provided here does not substitute professional medical advice from healthcare professionals. 

What is CTE?

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, is a progressive brain degenerative disease. This condition predominantly affects individuals with a history of repetitive brain trauma. This could be through repeated concussions or blows to the head. CTE was first identified in boxers. However, it has since been discovered in individuals from other walks of life. In particular, it is prevalent among retired athletes who played contact sports like football or hockey.

Causes of CTE

The direct cause of CTE is recurrent brain trauma. This trauma prompts an abnormal build-up of a protein called tau, which gradually kills brain cells. This eventually leads to the progression of the disease. Not everyone who experiences repetitive brain trauma will develop CTE. Genetics and other factors may play a role in increasing individual vulnerability.

Symptoms of CTE

CTE manifests in various ways and can be mistaken for other conditions. Symptoms may not become apparent until years after the repetitive trauma. Early symptoms often include memory loss, confusion, and mood disturbances. As CTE progresses, individuals may experience severe problems with thinking and memory, changes in behavior, and coordination issues. Retired athletes with CTE may initially present these behaviors subtly, but they often become more evident over time.

Managing Risks Associated with CTE

There is currently no known cure for CTE. However, understanding and managing its associated risks can be instrumental in minimizing its impact. Regular check-ups and open dialogue with your doctor about brain injuries or symptoms you're experiencing are recommended. 

Lifestyle changes may also help protect brain health, including: 

  • Adopting a brain-healthy diet
  • Engaging in regular physical and cognitive exercise
  • Reducing alcohol consumption, 

A shift in the approach to contact sports, including safety measures like implementing stricter concussion protocols, can be pivotal in reducing the risk of brain trauma and CTE.

Get In-Home Support From Senior Helpers

Understanding the causes and symptoms and proper management of chronic traumatic encephalopathy is vital for at-risk people, especially those in contact sports. It's even more critical for seniors, as the disease typically manifests later in life. With this knowledge, individuals can manage their risks better and have candid conversations with their doctors to monitor any potential indicators of CTE. 

For those residing in Chicago and Cook County, IL, and are looking into getting additional support for yourself or a senior loved one, Senior Helpers Chicago/Evanston. Our team is dedicated to providing quality in-home care tailored to your unique needs and preferences. Contact us today to learn more about how we can make a difference in your golden years.