Dementia: Five Symptoms We Often Ignore
Losing one’s memory and sense of self is a terrifying reality, especially for individuals suffering from different forms of dementia.
As humans age, the body begins to experience changes in different parts, and the risk for dementia grows. While this is a global trend, statistics have reported that more than 900,000 people are living with dementia in the UK today. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040. And currently, there is no known cure.
According to Professor Hana Burianova, a neuroscientist at Bournemouth University and advisor for British supplement brand Health span, the brain starts ageing in the early 20s, losing connections between different parts as it ages.
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, affecting between 50 and 75 per cent of those diagnosed.
Here are a few traits not to neglect to prevent full-blown dementia.
One of the hallmarks of early dementia is loss of memory. But how can you tell if an older loved one is being scatty or if there’s something more concerning at work?
“We know from research that older adults, aged 65-plus, will lose some detail in their personal experience, but their memory for facts and words is better than younger people,’ says Professor Burianova.
And often much of the typical ‘forgetfulness’ of otherwise healthy older people might be because they’re not paying attention in the first place.
‘They may not be “encoding” the information, for instance, perhaps they were told a story at a party but they were distracted,’ she says.
‘The difference between a brain that’s ageing healthily and pathological degeneration is the progressive dying of neurons. The changes will occur gradually.’
The death of these neurons typically takes place in the parts of the brain involved in memory such as the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus.
Someone will forget conversations they just had, or they may get lost somewhere they know well, or forget the route home, despite doing it countless times before.
‘Anyone can forget to turn off the stove, but with someone with Alzheimer’s, it keeps happening,’ she says.
Saying the same thing over and over again
One sign we often overlook is people who often repeat themselves. We all can say things otherwise to our friends and close relations, either due to time inferentiality.
someone with dementia will repeat the same thing over and over again, in a short period. This is a reflection of their short-term memory loss.
‘We all tell stories several times, especially to our partners. There might be a cue that reminds us, and that’s the trigger for our retrieval,’ says Professor Burianova.
However, When they start saying the same thing three or even four times in a row, it is time to visit your physicians for a proper check-up and know what’s the next line of action.
If your otherwise level loved one suddenly becomes anxious or depressed, it could be more than a mid-life crisis.
‘Early signs of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which Bruce Willis has, include personality changes. It’s very hard as people get depressed and anxious,’ says Professor Burianova.
‘Someone will try to find out why their beloved is suffering from mental health issues, but it’s more than that – it’s because part of the brain is deteriorating.
‘Picture the brain as a big net and part of the net starts being broken, then the rest of the net starts to rip. Depending on where that process starts, it will govern the symptoms.
‘FTD has secondary symptoms like memory loss and physiological issues such as bowel problems.’
Last month Bruce Willis was given a second diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia, less than a year after it emerged he had an untreatable brain disorder. Pictured above, in 2019 at the European premiere of Glass in 2021
They can’t speak
If a previously fluent speaker suddenly starts tripping over their words, take heed.
They might have aphasia, where a person has difficulty with speech and understanding language, which can be caused by FTD.
‘There is an area in the frontal lobe which has to do with the initiation of language,’ says Professor Burianova.
‘You might be telling them something and you realise they don’t understand. Or they start stuttering or stumble as they try to produce language.’
Changes in personality
A quiet person is different from an extrovert. or perhaps if you are known to tell jokes and share your cheer smiles.
‘Depending on what kind of dementia you have, your personality can change once it starts affecting your prefrontal cortex,’ says Professor Burianova.
‘There can be a lot of fear or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), you can become super obsessive and some people become disinhibited.
Suddenly you witness your friends or relations taking off their clothes or doing somewhere form of a strange thing. ‘There could be aggression too, but that could be because they’re afraid of their environment and feel extremely vulnerable.’
When you begin to witness signs like this; you probably need to act quickly, and one effective thing to start doing early enough is learning to keep your brain sharp.
From the right diet to staying active, a few lifestyle tweaks can give you a new lease of life.
Don’t forget to get quality sleep: A good night’s sleep is essential for cognitive health, and sleeping on your side may contribute to a nighttime “power cleanse” that removes brain waste associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases.