Early Warning Signs That May Indicate Dementia

Frequent Falls and Coordination Problems

It's been established by health researchers that people with Alzheimer's disease, the most prevalent form of dementia, are at higher risk of hip fractures due to falls than other adults their age.

Disregard for the Law

Poor judgement with relation to finances or even obeying the law can be an early sign of changes in the brain connected to frontotemporal dementia (FTD). “It is sometimes hard to wrap our minds around the concept that a specific part of our brain is not functioning properly, leading to behaviors that may range the gamut of disruptive, detached and sometimes criminal,”

Missing Sarcasm or Lies

Because the brain’s ability to discern truth from lies and the underlying meaning of words is in the frontotemporal lobe, dementia sufferers often miss such discrepancies. What seems to be off with dementia patients is the ability to catch the verbal and non-verbal cues (such as intonation, facial expressions, etc.) that would normally let them know the person isn’t being serious or honest.

Staring Off Into Space

While patients with Lewy body dementia have been known to show cognitive fluctuations, including staring into space for significant periods of time, a 2010 study from Washington University in St. Louis showed that this symptom is often found in Alzheimer’s patients as well. Often called “reduced gaze,” this is an effect of the brain’s normal management of eye movement and tracking. If you see this or if others do, you should consult a doctor. This diminished control and awareness of eye movement can also manifest in the form of skipping lines while trying to read.

Loss of Motor and Cognitive Skills

Many dementia patients will find that they have trouble performing basic tasks that once were easy. This could include manipulating objects, such as buttoning a shirt, which requires fine motor skills, as well as general difficulty remembering how to do something.

Eating Foreign Objects

Eating issues are a common problem with dementia patients, whether it’s a loss of appetite, overeating, or no longer enjoying “favorite” foods. But one of the most distinctive aspects that accompanies degenerative neural diseases is the eating of foreign or inedible objects.

Losing empathy

“Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand another person’s emotional state. It allows you to pick up on someone else’s mood, whether it be happy, fearful, or concerned,” explained Dr. Muireann Irish of Neuroscience Research Australia. This loss of empathy is often a result of dementia, particularly due to the loss of cells in what researchers often call the “social brain.”

Alzheimer’s and other Dementia

Patients Need Memory Care

As elderly individuals grow older they often begin to experience memory loss and gain other symptoms of brain impairment. Dementia is a common form of memory loss that can affect an individual’s daily life and it is caused by deviations in the brain.

There are multiple forms of dementia that can affect individuals based on their medical and physical history.

One of the more commonly found types of dementia in seniors is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease affects up to 80% of individuals diagnosed with dementia. Some symptoms of Alzheimer’s include; having trouble remembering certain conversations, having difficulty remembering events or people’s names, as well as sadness and lethargy. Additionally, as the disease progresses individuals can show communication issues, poor judgment, misperception, confusion, changes in their conduct, and issues with dialogue, swallowing or walking.

Alzheimer’s disease happens when protein fragments in the brain known as beta-amyloid plagues get looped around protein strands called protein tau tangles. It can eventually lead to nerve cell damage and eventually death of the brain. Alzheimer’s is a slow-progressing disease that can affect elderly individuals for a long time in their life.

Vascular dementia

This form of dementia is rarer than Alzheimer’s and affects less than 10% of cases. Symptoms of Vascular dementia include decreased judgment, a lack of planning, or organizational skills based upon memory loss. While many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease also affect those with vascular dementia, the diseases listed above are more common to v vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia happens due to damaged vessels, leading to a higher risk of stroke and bleeding in the brain. Often an image of the brain can detect any issues with an individual’s blood vessels leading to a dementia diagnosis.

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) can also occur in elderly individuals

Again, many of the same symptoms of Alzheimer’s occur in individuals with vascular dementia but individuals experience issues with sleep, hallucinations, and unevenness. Some symptoms of Parkinson’s also can be prevalent in individuals with DLB.

This occurs when protein clumps called alpha-synuclein form in abnormal areas of the brain. It often occurs in the cortex of the brain and can also happen to individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Individuals can also be subject to mixed dementia when different forms of dementia affect different areas of the brain.

Other Kinds of Dementias

  • Mixed dementia happens simultaneously and can cause an individual to have Alzheimer’s disease as well as DLB or DLB and vascular dementia, etc. This type of dementia is becoming more common in elderly patients as is seen more often than it has in the past. When an individual has mixed dementia, it sparks multiple abnormalities in the brain causing severe symptoms for the individual.

  • Parkinson’s disease is another form of dementia that occurs more rapidly in individuals. It has many of the same symptoms as someone who has Alzheimer’s or Lewy Body Dementia but the individual may have problems with movement and may shake. Parkinson’s occurs when in the substantia nigra area in the brain where clumps are likely to form. These clumps affect nerve cells that produce dopamine and damages them as time passes.

  • Frontotemporal dementia contains a few different types of dementia such as behavioral variant (FTD), primary progressive aphasia, Pick’s disease, corticobasal degeneration, and progressive supranuclear palsy. Symptoms here affect the individual’s character, conduct, and may damage their speech. The brain is affected has nerve cells become damaged in the front and sides of the brain. People typically experience this form of dementia at a younger age and survive for a shorter period of time.

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is another rare form of dementia but it is more common than other forms of dementia. This form of dementia has been linked to both humans and mammals and can be attributed to variant CJD or “mad cow disease” in cattle. When an individual has CJD memory loss and lack of coordination can occur and a change in behavior also can be noticeable. CJD happens as proteins in the brain misfolded and cause malfunctions.

  • Normal-pressure hydrocephalus leads to difficulty walking, memory loss, and issues going to the bathroom in elderly individuals. This happens when there is too much fluid in the brain and it can occasionally be surgically corrected with the use of a shunt to drain the fluid.

  • Huntington’s disease is another brain disorder that happens when there is a defect in an individual’s chromosome 4. The symptoms for this include sporadic movements of the body, a loss of mental capability, decreased reasoning, irritability, depression, and other mood changes. This happens when protein in the brain becomes defective.

  • Finally, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome affects elderly individuals and their memory. This is caused by a lack of thiamine in the body and happens when someone misuses alcohol. Memory issues as mentioned previously are the main symptom and as the brain receives a lack of thiamine it runs out of energy to function.

Science-Backed Tips That Can Prevent Dementia/Alzheimer

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, or dementia, although there are many things that can be done to prevent the onset. There are nine healthy changes you can make that will reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and have the added benefit of improving your overall quality of life.

Foods to Prevent Dementia

Scientists learn about which foods best protect our brain’s cellular makeup. They also learn about the interconnectedness between our gut and our brain cells, and why what we eat affects every aspect of our body’s performance and well-being. And in the last section, we learn about ways to create “a more robust organism” and receive instructions on how to eat and live. For example:

extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, blueberries, dark chocolate, eggs, grass-fed beef, dark, leafy greens, broccoli, wild salmon, almonds

Quit Smoking

According to a study published in the journal Alzheimer’s dementia, “smoking is associated with earlier onset of AD symptomatology, and is estimated to account for 4.7 million AD cases worldwide.”

The mechanism at work is “cerebral oxidative stress,” a lack of equilibrium between free radicals (atoms with unpaired electrons) and antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are contained in the tar in cigarettes and the gas that is produced by smoking.

Bulk up on B12 and controlling homocysteine levels

Vitamin B12 is a vital component for good health. According to National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, B12 “helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells.” When people become deficient in B12, all kinds of things can go haywire.

Keep moving

One of the keys to long life and wellness is exercise. According to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, 30 minutes of aerobic activity (anything that is moderately strenuous or strenuous) a day for adults and 60 minutes for children are the minimum necessary for a healthy life.

Increase your vitamin D intake

Often called the “sunshine vitamin,” just 10–30 minutes of exposure to midday sun a few times a week can give you all the vitamin D you need. This component is important for helping your body to process calcium, and not having enough has ramifications related to bone density, as well as increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

Drink coffee

Did you know that your morning cup of Joe isn’t just a good way to wake up? It’s also a means for preventing dementia. According to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, “coffee drinking of 3-5 cups per day at midlife was associated with a decreased risk of dementia/AD by about 65 percent at late-life” in a study on cardiovascular risk factors, aging, and dementia conducted in Finland.

Protect your head

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, while there is no known connection between mild brain trauma, such as bumping your head on a door or wall, elderly people with a history of moderate brain trauma had a 2.3 times greater risk of dementia, while those with serious brain trauma had a 4.5 times greater risk.

Minimize alcohol intake

While there are obviously many negative effects of excessive alcohol use over time, including liver and brain damage, there are also links to dementia. Light to moderate drinking has neither been proven to be harmful nor beneficial with regards to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation UK. However, studies showed that “individuals who drank heavily or engaged in binge drinking—where a person consumes a large quantity of alcohol in a short time period—were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of dementia than those who engaged in moderate alcohol consumption.”

Brain exercises are great

Keeping your brain sharp with puzzles, math, and mentally challenging games is a great way to prevent dementia for healthy adults according to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

Make sure to relax and rest!

While not getting enough sleep can have catastrophic effects on your emotional well-being, it can also be incredibly destructive to your body and mind. According to the National Institutes of Health, “In a small study, losing just one night of sleep led to an increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with impaired brain function and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Getting education early in life

Lower education was associated with a greater risk for dementia in many but not all studies. The level of education associated with risk for dementia varied by study population and more years of education did not uniformly attenuate the risk for dementia. It appeared that a more consistent relationship with dementia occurred when years of education reflected cognitive capacity, suggesting that the effect of education on risk for dementia may be best evaluated within the context of a lifespan developmental model.

Avoiding diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is associated with a 1.5‐ to 2‐fold higher risk of dementia. Diabetes also may occur for the first time in many individuals with mental ill health, including cognitive impairment and dementia, and this may complicate management and lead to difficulties in self‐care

Limiting stress

Hippocampus plays a crucial role in learning and memory and, in spite of its remarkable plasticity, it is also particularly sensitive to stress hormones due to its high concentration of corticosteroid receptors. Indeed, adrenal steroids modulate hippocampal plasticity, acting on excitability and long term potentiation or depression. By a chronobiological approach, we studied the cortisol and DHEAS secretion in clinically healthy old subjects and in age- matched demented patients, including both the degenerative and the vascular type. When compared to young controls, both clinically healthy elderly subjects and demented patients, particularly those with AD, had significantly higher cortisol levels at night time, i.e. at the moment of the maximal sensitivity of HPA axis to stimulatory or inhibitory inputs. At the same time, a clear age- and disease- dependent reduction of DHEAS secretion was found. Thus the cortisol to DHEAS molar ratio was significantly higher in healthy old subjects, and even more in demented patients, when compared to young controls, and significantly linked to both age and cognitive impairment.

Avoiding high blood pressure

Diastolic and systolic blood pressure levels were positively associated with severe white matter lesions. Both increases and decreases in diastolic blood pressure were associated with more severe periventricular white matter lesions. Increase in systolic blood pressure levels was associated with more severe periventricular and subcortical white matter lesions. People with poorly controlled hypertension had a higher risk of severe white matter lesions than those without hypertension, or those with controlled or untreated hypertension. Higher blood pressure was associated with an increased risk of severe white matter lesions.

Avoiding obesity in midlife

study investigated whether increased body weight or central obesity were associated with a higher risk of developing dementia in a representative sample of older adults.

Staying Socially Active at Age 60 Lowers Risk of Developing Dementia Later in Life

For adults aged 50 and older, being socially active may be the key to lowering the risk of developing dementia later in life. A new study led by the University College London (UCL) shows how important it is to make changes in daily life to ensure we take the time to connect with others. The research, published in PLOS Medicine, reports the most powerful evidence to date showing the link between how social contact earlier in life could play an essential role in keeping dementia at bay. They found that increased social contact at age 60 is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing dementia later in life. They were able to conclude that participants who saw friends almost daily at age 60 were 12 percent less likely to develop dementia than someone who only saw one or two friends every few months.

Music can help to reduce depression, agitation, and problems with one’s mood.

Additionally, it has been shown to increase an individual’s social skills, their movement, and their cognitive abilities. Furthermore, in individuals approaching the last stages of Alzheimer’s, listening to music has been shown to strengthen links between one’s part of the brain that processes language and the opposite part of the brain that processes music. This is especially relevant as not all areas of the brain are severely damaged even during the final stages of Alzheimer’s. The hippocampus is another area of the brain that can be strengthened by encouraging your loved ones to listen to music. This part of the brain retains one’s long term memory and is accessed when someone’s emotions are touched upon, especially through music.

Link Between Alzheimer’s and Gut Confirmed

While a cure has remained elusive, the connection between brain health and gut microbiota has grown clearer, and research suggests that the bacteria in your intestines may influence brain functioning and can even promote neurodegeneration.

Depression and Dementia

Many older people face a greater risk of these closely linked conditions

The prevalence of depression in people with dementia has been reported to exceed 60 percent. Despite their obvious differences, it is becoming ever more apparent that depression and dementia may be two sides of the same coin. People with dementia often have depression; if the depression remains untreated, the associated memory and cognitive problems worsen. Conversely, a significant history of depression seems to be a risk factor for dementia; the two disorders may thus co-exist in a vicious self-sustaining cycle. A longitudinal, three-wave epidemiologic study published in 2013 concluded: “Severe depression increases the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, even after controlling for the competing risk of death.”

Loneliness and isolation are already noted risk factors for both depression and dementia. That means the lockdowns preventing family and caregivers from interacting with their loved ones could hasten their loved ones’ decline. We are only just beginning to observe the grim consequences of this imposed isolation—a necessary step, taken with the goal of saving lives, but which, in the end, may cause even more destruction and despair in the lives of those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. As well, it appears that people with a past history of depression have double the risk of developing dementia. This is true even if the depression occurred more than a decade before the onset of dementia. There are clear mechanisms for this increased risk. Prolonged damage to a part of the brain called the hippocampus, a finding linked to depression, has been proposed to underlie this causative relationship. This is further confirmed by studies that demonstrate increased hippocampal deposits of plaques and tangles in people with Alzheimer’s (the pathological hallmarks of the disease) with lifetime histories of depression. In addition, other researchers speculate that brain inflammation that often occurs when a person is depressed may be a long-term triggering factor for dementia. These explanations further demonstrate the societal need to recognize and treat depression. Finally, the symptoms of dementia and depression can mimic each other, which means people with dementia may be mistakenly diagnosed with depression and vice versa. There are no effective therapies for dementia, whereas there are a number of potentially effective therapies for depression.

Topical Lemon Balm Lotion for Alzheimer’s

Just as our minds respond to sights and sounds, they also respond to scents

What about severe dementia? We always hear about cognitive deficits, but more than half of patients with dementia experience behavioral or psychiatric symptoms. Thorazine-type antipsychotic drugs are often prescribed, even though they appear to be particularly dangerous in the elderly. “Antipsychotic medication may be viewed as an easier option than nonpharmacological alternatives,” such as aromatherapy. Another study examined the effect of rubbing a lemon balm-infused lotion on the arms and face of patients twice daily by caregiving staff, compared with lotion without the scent. “During the constructive activities, compared to the unscented control.

This is important because antipsychotics cause patients to become more withdrawn and less engaged. They are like a chemical restraint. The drugs can reduce agitation, too. So, aromatherapy with lemon balm “is safe, well -tolerated, and highly efficacious, with additional benefits on key quality of life parameters.”

People Who Can’t Read May Be 3 Times More Likely to Develop Dementia

Keeping your mind engaged is often suggested as a way to stave off dementia, and something as simple as reading and writing can make a huge difference. Dr. Jennifer J. Manly of Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York says:

“Being able to read and write allows people to engage in more activities that use the brain, like reading newspapers and helping children and grandchildren with homework. … Previous research has shown such activities may reduce the risk of dementia. Our new study provides more evidence that reading and writing may be important factors in helping maintain a healthy brain.”