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The 5 Symptoms of Dementia and Early Warning Signs

December 06, 2022 3 min read

The 5 Symptoms of Dementia and Early Warning Signs

As we enter the age of 50 and beyond, it is not uncommon to experience occasional challenges in word retrieval or locating misplaced items. However, when faced with persistent difficulties in memory, cognition, or daily activities, it is important to recognize the potential indications of a more serious underlying condition. Let us explore these matters with intelligence, motivation, and care, ensuring our well-being and seeking appropriate support.


What is dementia?

According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia is not classified as a disease but rather as a broad term encompassing brain changes that impair daily functioning. It can manifest as reduced focus, attention, language skills, problem-solving ability, and visual perception. Furthermore, dementia can disrupt emotional control and even trigger personality transformations.

The most prevalent form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, affecting approximately 6.5 million Americans. However, experts suspect the actual number to be higher. A report from the Alzheimer's Association predicts that Alzheimer's prevalence will reach nearly 13 million by 2050. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that over 55 million individuals live with dementia.

Diseases that cause dementia

Dementia is primarily caused by various conditions. Many patients experience mixed dementia, which involves a combination of different types like Alzheimer's and vascular dementia.

Alzheimer's disease is characterized by amyloid plaques and tangled fibers in the brain, leading to a loss of neural connections. Initially affecting the hippocampus, which is vital for memory formation, the damage gradually spreads.

Vascular dementia, the second most common type, arises from the impairment of blood vessels supplying the brain. It tends to impact focus, organization, problem-solving, and thinking speed more prominently than memory.

Lewy body dementia occurs when abnormal protein deposits called Lewy bodies affect brain chemistry, resulting in issues with behavior, mood, movement, and thinking.

Frontotemporal disorders, predominant among individuals younger than 65, involve degenerative damage to the frontal and temporal lobes. Symptoms may include apathy, difficulties in communication, walking, and working, emotional changes, and impulsive or inappropriate behaviors.

If someone displays signs of dementia, it is crucial to seek medical expertise for proper testing and diagnosis. Numerous conditions, often treatable, can produce dementia-like symptoms, so it is essential to rule them out initially.

In the case of a dementia diagnosis, planning for managing care, especially as the condition progresses, becomes imperative.

5 warning signs of dementia 

Recognizing the early signs of dementia is crucial. Here are 5 warning signals to be mindful of:

  1. Difficulty with everyday tasks: While everyone makes occasional mistakes, individuals with dementia may struggle more noticeably. From managing monthly bills to following a recipe, these tasks become increasingly challenging. Concentration issues and trouble completing activities may also arise.
  2. Repetition: Repetitive behavior, such as asking the same question repeatedly or recounting a recent event multiple times, can indicate mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.
  3. Communication problems: Watch for instances where loved ones struggle to participate in conversations, lose track of their thoughts abruptly, or experience difficulty recalling words or object names.
  4. Navigation difficulties: Dementia can impair visual and spatial abilities, leading to challenges in finding one's way. For example, getting lost while driving may become more frequent.
  5. Confusion about time and place: Pay attention if someone forgets their current location or is unable to recall how they arrived there. Another concerning sign is persistent disorientation regarding the day of the week.

Being mindful of these signs can enable early intervention and support.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a condition that affects individuals who may struggle with memory loss, attention, decision-making, language, or reasoning. While MCI leads to noticeable decline, the changes are less severe compared to dementia, allowing individuals to carry out their daily activities without major disruptions. The Cleveland Clinic affirms that people with MCI face an elevated risk of developing dementia.

Where can you find help? 

When a loved one exhibits concerning symptoms, the initial step often involves visiting their local GP. However, to obtain a definitive diagnosis, it becomes necessary to consult a specialist such as a neurologist, geriatrician, or geriatric psychiatrist. 

Specialists require a thorough understanding of the patient's medical and family history and lifestyle habits, including exercise routines and tobacco usage. Recent research indicates that even among extended family members, a higher prevalence of dementia presents an increased risk. Furthermore, modifiable factors like hypertension, smoking, diabetes, and inadequate physical activity can heighten susceptibility to dementia. 

In the event that locating a specialist proves challenging, the National Institute on Aging recommends reaching out to the neurology department of a nearby medical school. Alternatively, certain hospitals offer specialized clinics focused on dementia. 

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