Dementia: study lists these “subtle” symptoms that can appear “18 years” before diagnosis


Early Signs of Dementia | Photo credit: iStock images


  • Dementia, in and of itself, is not a specific disease, but several diseases can cause dementia.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of progressive dementia in the elderly and is irreversible today.
  • But, depending on the cause, some symptoms of dementia may be reversible.

In an interim order, the Bombay District Court on Friday (September 24) allowed the daughters of a woman with progressive dementia to act as legal guardians so that they can pay increasingly heavy medical and other bills. .

According to a report in The time of India, a bench of Judges Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav Jamdar ordered that “in view of the urgency of this situation, we have authorized the applicants to act as guardians and managers of (their mother’s) person and property, including understood to manage his bank accounts for the limited purpose of meeting his medical and other expenses.

While this is encouraging – given that the patient will be cared for by their loved ones, it also underscores the importance of early detection and acceptance of the situation in order to sort out issues before facing a complete loss of cognition. and other mental abilities.

According to Mayo Clinic, the typical symptoms of dementia vary depending on the cause, but common signs and symptoms include:

Cognitive changes

  • Memory loss, which is usually noticed by someone else
  • Difficulty communicating or finding words
  • Difficulty with visual and spatial abilities, such as getting lost while driving
  • Difficulty reasoning or solving problems
  • Difficulty managing complex tasks
  • Difficulty planning and organizing
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
  • Confusion and disorientation

Psychological changes

  • Personality changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

But most of these symptoms are more of a corroborating type. They are recognized much later in the progression of the disease and leave little or no window of interception.

Family members of a patient with dementia, or the patient himself, while his cognitive abilities are still largely intact, would be able to give an early indication of the imminent onset of dementia.

Dementia researchers have worked to prevent brain decline in patients by identifying early indicators of it.

Now reports that a pioneering test found “subtle” indications of Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – 18 years before a diagnosis.

Major breakthroughs in the detection of early symptoms:
Why is this discovery critical? Because it facilitates early intervention, because early knowledge of the impending situation saves precious time to strengthen the brain’s defenses against the worst effects of brain decline.

A study of more than 2,000 people has shown that a memory and thinking test can reveal differences in people who develop Alzheimer’s disease (which makes up the majority of cases of dementia) up to 18 years before the diagnosis.

Based on tests performed 13 to 18 years before the end of the study, a lower score on a cognitive test was associated with an 85% increased risk of future dementia.

This suggests that the development of Alzheimer’s disease may begin many years earlier than expected before symptoms are recognized.

“Dementia often causes changes in the brain years before symptoms become apparent,” said Dr. Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer Society.

“This study shows that there may be subtle indications of Alzheimer’s disease in thought and memory for up to 18 years before a formal diagnosis can take place.”

He continued, “It could mean that there is a long window of opportunity for treatment in which we may one day stop or slow down dementia.

“While these tests cannot accurately predict who will develop dementia, they could potentially be used to identify those at higher risk.”

The first signs and symptoms of dementia:
According to Alzheimer Society – and we quote it verbatim – sometimes memory loss can be an early sign of dementia. This is especially true if you:

struggle to remember recent events, even though you can easily remember things from a long time ago.
find it difficult to follow conversations or television programs.
forget the names of close friends or everyday objects.
struggle to remember things you have heard, seen or read recently.
regularly lose track of what you say.
you find yourself putting things in unusual places, like your keys in the refrigerator.
feeling confused, even in a familiar place, or getting lost in familiar journeys.
find that people start to notice or comment on your memory loss.

What increases the risk of dementia?
Here is what the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says of the factors that can cause dementia:
Advanced age: The most important known risk factor for dementia is age, with most cases affecting people 65 years of age and older.
Family history: Those who have parents or siblings with dementia are more likely to develop dementia on their own.
Race / ethnicity: Regarding the Indian scenario, a research article by shows that the prevalence rates (PR) of different regions of India differ considerably. The prevalence of dementia in the rural population of South India and that of North India showed a highly variable rate of 3.39 to 0.84%, respectively. There are few urban studies in several regions of India showing similar variable rates: 2.44-4.1% in West India, 1.83% in North India, 0.8-1.28% in eastern India and 3.6% in southern India. Likewise, in the West – especially the United States, older African Americans are twice as likely to suffer from dementia as whites. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to have dementia than whites.
Poor heart health: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking increase the risk of dementia if they are not treated properly.
Traumatic brain injury: Head injuries can increase the risk of dementia, especially if they are severe or repeated. Even mental illnesses related to stress, etc. are known to cause dementia.

How to lower your risk of developing dementia:
Although aging is the biggest risk factor for dementia, evidence shows that there are things you can do to help lower your own risk. The factors are listed below:

  1. Stay active,
  2. eat healthy and
  3. exercise your mind.

Getting regular physical activity is one of the best ways to lower your risk of dementia. As the Alzheimer Society (SA) explains, it’s good for the heart, circulation, weight and mental well-being.

It’s important to find a way to exercise that works for you. “You may find it helpful to start with a small amount of activity and build it up gradually,” notes the AS. “Even 10 minutes in a row is good for you and try to avoid sitting for too long.”

Research also suggests that diet may influence your risk of developing dementia. Find out how the Mediterranean diet (made with whole grains, fish, legumes, fruits and vegetables) and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet – designed to control blood pressure – can help NOT ONLY your heart health. , but can also contribute to lower levels of mental decline.

What if a loved one suspects you have dementia?
The CDC describes the following steps:

  1. Chat with the affected loved one.
  2. Talk to a health care provider about any changes soon.
  3. Talk about the issue of driving and always having ID.
  4. Focus on getting a medical evaluation.
  5. The patient should be with a health care provider with whom they feel comfortable.
  6. Invite the family to hold a meeting.
  7. Start planning and collect documents like healthcare directive, durable power of attorney for healthcare, estate plan.

Disclaimer: The tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or dietitian before starting a fitness program or making any changes to your diet.

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