THERE ARE some signs of dementia that most of us know to look out for, including confusion, poor memory, and changes in behavior.
But hints of the condition may pop up in other unexpected ways — and sooner than you might think.
Dementia is a group of symptoms associated with a decline in brain function and affects one in three people born in the UK at some point in their lives.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, there were an estimated 944,000 people living with dementia in the UK in January 2022.
This is more than ever before and that number is expected to increase.
Professor Paul Matthews, head of the Department of Brain Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London and head of the UK Dementia Research Institute, told the i that the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
The second most common form is vascular dementia, while less common forms are frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and dementia with Lewy bodies, he added.
Here are a few unexpected warning signs of the condition to watch out for…
1. Money mishaps
You may notice that a loved one is having more trouble counting change or paying for something they bought than before.
In addition to the difficulty of “calculating a tip, balancing a checkbook, or understanding a bank statement,” these signs may be some of the first noticeable signs of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the U.S. National Institute of Aging.
Missed payments can also be an early red flag, as can compulsive spending or making payments to anyone who asks – be it a legitimate request or a scam.
A study of 81,000 Americans conducted between 1999 and 2018 found that missed credit card payments could occur as early as six years before dementia was diagnosed.
2. Frequent nightmares
Signs of dementia can appear as early as 40 years before symptoms manifest.
Dr. Abidemi Otaiku, a clinical researcher specializing in neurology at the University of Birmingham, found that children between seven and 11 who had persistent bad dreams were almost twice as likely to develop cognitive impairment by age 50, compared to those who did. didn’t. T.
Cognitive impairment is when a person struggles with memory and other forms of thinking.
A person with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is more likely to develop dementia, say experts at the Alzheimer’s Society.
Dr. Otaiku found the same link between middle-aged and older adults who had nightmares and dementia — they were more than twice as likely to develop the condition in the future.
While noting that further research would be needed to determine if bad dreams and nightmares actually cause dementia, Dr. Otaiku also “that reducing the frequency of bad dreams in early life could be an early opportunity” to prevent this.
3. Cannot detect lies or sarcasm
Does your loved one not follow along with the ironic remarks you make?
A 2011 University of California study found that people with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) or Alzheimer’s disease found it harder to pick up on sarcasm.
Those with FTD also couldn’t tell when someone was lying, although people with Alzheimer’s could.
4. An empty stare
Another early sign of dementia can be someone developing a blank stare or ‘diminished gaze’ – some forms of the disease can affect the eyes’ ability to track.
Professor Matthews noted that people with the condition can also miss important elements when looking at something “because the brain doesn’t quite put together the picture correctly”.
Estimating distances or using the stairs can also become a challenge.
5. Eating moldy food
Changes in eating habits can be a red flag that a loved one has some form of dementia, especially if they are unknowingly eating food that is moldy.
As the dementia progresses, they may try to eat things that are not food at all.
They could even radically change their food preferences, for example by eating meat even though they have been vegetarians all their lives.
6. Less fluid
Finally, someone with dementia may find it easier to use vocabulary and grammar and have difficulty finding the right words.
The deterioration of language is much faster in Alzheimer’s disease, Professor Matthews noted.
It’s thought that about 70 percent of the risk of getting Alzheimer’s is due to genes, while 30 percent is due to lifestyle and environment – something we can actively do something about.
“We know that biochemical and cell changes in the brain probably take place two decades, if not more, before the disease manifests itself in some form,” said Professor Matthews.
So there are certain lifestyle choices you can make to lower your risk, such as eating a healthy diet, lowering your blood pressure, and getting enough exercise.
Studies have shown that eating a healthy Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and also reduce the risk of developing dementia by almost a quarter.
Meanwhile, experts have claimed that a drug used to treat millions with type 2 diabetes could cut your risk of dementia by as much as a third.
The main signs of dementia you need to know
The symptoms of dementia develop slowly over a number of years. Often the symptoms are confused with other conditions and can initially be attributed to old age.
- Memory: Frequently forgetting recent events, names and faces.
- Repetition: Getting more and more repetitive.
- Misplacing things: Frequent misplacing or placing articles in odd places.
- Confusion: Not sure of the date or time of day.
- disorientation: People may not be sure where they are or get lost, especially in unfamiliar places.
- Language: Trouble finding the right words.
- Mood and behavior: Some people become gloomy, anxious or irritable