Like so many other diseases, the earlier you spot dementia the better off your prognosis is. And as uncomfortable as it is to think about you, or a loved one, starting to lose your memory, ignoring it won’t make it go away.
An early diagnosis gives you the opportunity to slow the process down; in some cases even coming close to stopping it. And it opens up far more treatment options.
7 “unusual” signs of dementia you should know
Following are seven early warning signs of dementia most folks have never heard of. These “weird” signs are actually quite common.
If you spot more than one in yourself, or a loved one, don’t panic.
But don’t ignore them either. Make an appointment to talk with your doctor about your concerns.
1. Missing sarcasm:
Even people who don’t often use sarcasm themselves typically know it when they hear it.
But according to the University of California, San Francisco, Memory and Aging Center, people in the early stages of dementia often lose their ability to tell a sarcastic comment from a genuine one.
So if you, or a loved one, have suddenly started “missing the joke,” more often it could be a red flag.
Officially known as “reduced gaze,” this symptom may not be noticeable to the person with the symptom. But it’s hard for the rest of us to miss.
Dementia alters the part of the brain that tells us to track what’s happening around us with our eyes. Without those unconscious messages from the brain, people simply don’t move their eyes as much.
If someone you care about is staring off into the distance, and no longer moving their eyes in response to nearby movements, help them make an appointment to see the doctor soon.
3. Changes in vision:
Many people in the early stages of dementia report difficulty measuring distances, recognizing colors, or reading. For some folks these vision changes can begin to cause problems with driving.
These same symptoms can also be signs of age-related vision loss. So if you have started to experience them, but don’t have any other symptoms, there’s likely no need to be too concerned.
A visit to the eye doctor can help clear things up (in more ways than one). And you can have a chat with your primary care doc to put your mind at ease, as well.
4. Changes in eating habits:
Unexpected and distinct changes in a person’s eating habits can be dementia red flags.
For example, researchers in Japan found many folks in the earliest stages of dementia suddenly develop a major sweet tooth, even if they’ve always been a savory lover.
How the brain registers flavors changes early on when dementia is involved. So if sugary foods are all of a sudden on the menu more often pay attention for any other troubling signs.
Those same changes in how the brain perceives taste can also make it difficult to tell when food has gone bad. If your loved one is eating food that’s well past its prime, it’s time to go see the doctor.
If your law-abiding mother-in-law suddenly starts slipping the silver into her purse, or swiping candy bars at the checkout counter, these very well could be signs of dementia.
In fact, in a study published in the journal JAMA Neurology researchers found that minor criminal behavior (think stealing or trespassing) was the very first sign of dementia in 14 percent of patients.
One of the earliest effects of the disease is the change it makes to the part of the brain that makes us care about rules and regulations. And without those inhibitions in place shoplifting and other petty crimes can become commonplace.
6. Falling more often:
Most folks worry whether forgetting where they parked their car, or blanking on an appointment, is the first sign of dementia. But it turns out more frequent falling might be a bigger red flag.
Studies have found that folks in the early stages of dementia start to experience more balance issues and may fall more often. And these symptoms often occur long before memory issues become obvious.
If you’ve started to feel unsteady on your feet, or had more than one fall in the past 12 months, it’s worth having a discussion with your doctor. Balance issues aren’t uncommon as we age, so if you don’t have any other dementia symptoms you may benefit from balance exercises.
7. Unaware of memory problems:
Researchers from McGill University found that people who were aware of their memory problems were actually less likely to be dealing with dementia. The same protein that leads to frequent falls can also keep the brain from signaling memory loss. In other words, if you KNOW you’re forgetting things, the odds are in your favor.
If you, or someone you care about, is experiencing more than one of these “weird” signs of dementia don’t ignore them. Make an appointment to see your doctor to be safe. Earlier diagnosis can help you take steps to slow down the disease so you can stay independent for years to come.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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