We’ve all misplaced or forgotten things at some point. As we age, our brains tend to slow down, resulting in temporary memory loss. But is that a cause for concern?
The neuropsychologist Dr. In a recent article from the Cleveland Clinic (USA), Aaron Bonner-Jackson explains what the first early warning signs of dementia can be and what you should do if you suspect a disease.
variety of causes
“Some people may have trouble finding a word or briefly forget a celebrity’s name or why they walked into a room. These experiences are what we think of as typical cognitive errors, things we all do fairly regularly,” says Bonner-Jackson.
“A very common misconception is that these signs mean you are inevitably on the road to dementia, but dementia is not a normal part of aging and we don’t expect everyone to get it.”
Almost a third of all people over the age of 85 have some form of dementia, and your risk of developing dementia increases with age, particularly if dementia runs in your biological family.
But dementia has a variety of causes, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and each of these causes brings with it a wide range of symptoms that can affect cognitive ability, mental and physical health.
Significantly decreased ability to think
With so many variables, how do you know your transient lack of judgment, memory, and decision-making aren’t early signs of dementia?
“Dementia broadly refers to a condition in which a person’s ability to think has declined significantly and this change has led to a decrease in their ability to function and take care of themselves,” notes Dr. Bonner Jackson clear.
Below, he explains some of the most common early signs of dementia and what to do if you’re worried about developing the disease.
There are different types of dementia, each with different causes and their own set of symptoms. In most cases, people who develop dementia have relatively similar symptoms early on that worsen over time.
These symptoms can affect not only the ability to think and act clearly, but also physical, mental, and emotional health.
In many cases, early signs of dementia are accompanied by difficulties in dealing with changes in routine, behavior and thought patterns.
Getting lost in familiar places
When you have dementia, you may find yourself lost in familiar surroundings. Getting lost in familiar places like your neighborhood, on your daily commute to work or school, or even in your home can be a cause for concern.
Forget short-term conversations
Occasional forgetfulness and difficulty finding the right word in a conversation are behaviors we are all familiar with. However, if this is happening frequently and you’re forgetting conversations you had a few minutes or hours ago, or if you’re having trouble finding out the name of someone close to you, it can be worrying.
“A hallmark of conditions like Alzheimer’s is short-term memory loss, where they don’t learn and store new memories as well as they used to, and so they keep asking the same questions,” said Dr. Bonner-Jackson.
“People can remember things from years ago with perfect clarity. They remember who they went to school with, what their teacher’s name was, and what they did while they were in the military or in their first home. But it’s often frustrating because they can’t remember what they did yesterday.”
Making decisions is difficult
Another sign of dementia can be having trouble making decisions in situations that were usually easy to handle. For example, if the medication intake changes and no longer reacts accordingly.
difficulties with numbers
If you’ve been good with numbers but have trouble doing basic math when paying bills, counting your finances, or giving a tip at a restaurant, these behaviors could be a cause for concern.
An inability to pay attention to minute details or trouble thinking are common symptoms of dementia.
“When someone is responsible for household bills, they may forget to pay them, or they may pay them and then forget that they have already paid and pay again, or they may make a mistake,” notes Dr. Bonner Jackson Festival.
Changes in mood or behavior
“Also, at the onset of dementia, we often see changes in a person’s mood or behavior,” he adds.
“Someone may become less interested in things they previously enjoyed. They may be more socially withdrawn and don’t like to be around people as much. They may not enjoy things as much as they used to. And they might become more irritable, frustrated more easily, or more anxious.”
If you have never suffered from anxiety or depression in the past, but now have these conditions later in life, this can be a sign of dementia.
It’s normal for us to slow down a bit as we age, but it shouldn’t have too much of an impact on our ability to get through the day.
However, those who walk more and more slowly and at the same time show signs of processing information more slowly have a higher probability of developing dementia.
Hearing or vision loss can also be a problem. “Hearing loss is one factor that can predispose someone to dementia,” explains Dr. Bonner-Jackson. “If someone has poor vision, it becomes more difficult to process information.”
What to do if you suspect dementia?
The key to diagnosing dementia is communicating any concerns to a doctor. This is often followed by a referral to a neurologist.
Before a diagnosis is made, a number of tests are likely to be done that can help determine what, if anything, has changed in the brain.
Dementia is currently not curable. However, drugs and non-drug therapies such as occupational therapy can delay the progression of the disease.
Early prevention is particularly important. It is well known that maintaining physical and mental health is key to fighting off dementia, and that includes exercising regularly every week.
Improving concentration through reading, solving puzzles, and learning new languages and skills can also help reduce the impact and likelihood of dementia.
Also, maintaining strong social contacts and ensuring a good and healthy diet can have significant and lasting effects.
“There is a strong relationship between the gut and the brain. How we eat really affects brain health,” says Dr. Bonner-Jackson. “People who remain socially connected with friends and family also have improved cognitive well-being.”
Whatever preventive measures you choose, it’s important to realize that improving your overall health can have a direct impact on your brain’s health and longevity.
And if you’re ever worried about sudden memory loss, it’s never too late or too early to make an appointment with a doctor. (ad)