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If You Have Dementia, This Is When You'll Begin to Feel Symptoms

Experts reveal bad habits that increase your risk of dementia and when signs start appearing. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to the World Health Organization, "Worldwide, around 55 million people have dementia, with over 60% living in low- and middle-income countries. As the proportion of older people in the population is increasing in nearly every country, this number is expected to rise to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050." Dementia is defined as "a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life. It isn't a specific disease, but several diseases can cause dementia," by the Mayo Clinic and while there's no cure as of now there are ways to help prevent dementia by healthier lifestyle choices. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with experts who explained when dementia symptoms start and what bad habits can lead to disorder. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


When Signs of Dementia are Noticeable

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress

Kelly O'Connor, a Certified Dementia Practitioner explains, "Dementia can affect both cognition and physical functioning. Depending on the type of dementia, the effect may or may not be 'felt' at all by the patient. What I have found is that many people miss the signs of dementia up to five or seven years before the official diagnosis."

Dr. Elise Eifert, Assistant Professor, Gerontology Program, UNC Greensboro adds, "It can be difficult to say when people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias realize that something has changed. Early symptoms can be vague and vary between people. While some people pick up on changes in their own thinking or behavior, sometimes these signs are first noticed by those closest to them. In later stages, many people experience anosognosia or lack of awareness that there are any deficits. The decline in mental function essentially affects one's ability to understand and acknowledge the extent of one's impairment."


More than Memory Loss

Woman comforting anxious husband

Dementia specialist Dr. Heather Palmer and former Cognitive Well-Being Advisor at Amica Senior Lifestyles says, "Dementia is more than just forgetting things, both short and long term, it can have an impact on the cognitive way people see and feel the world around them. Wall patterns and shadows can look very different for those living with dementia, appearing as deep holes or insects crawling up walls. Dementia can make the breaking of old habits and the creation of new ones hard. Reminder notes are a good way to manage living with dementia but can be misinterpreted or misplaced by those with dementia." 

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Main Causes of Dementia

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Dr. Eifert states, "Dementia is a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities. Dementia is caused by damage to or changes in the brain. There are many different causes of dementia including diseases like Alzheimer's, physical trauma like head injuries, or cerebrovascular events like strokes. It's important to recognize that dementia is not a specific disease but rather a cluster of symptoms related to an actual disease or condition impacting cognitive functioning."

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Lifestyle Choices that Put You at Greater Risk for Dementia

Man Smoking On Bright Sunny Day Outdoor

Chaye McIntosh, a Clinical Director at ChoicePoint Health says, "Being physically inactive, obese, abusing alcohol, and smoking contribute to dementia."

Dr. Daniel Cane of Esource Research adds, "Smoking causes cognitive functional problems, memory loss, and the inability to reason. Obesity. Excess fat in your body may cause inflammation in the brain-damaging the proteins present in the brain causing memory loss. Blood pressure. The higher the blood pressure in your midlife, the higher the risk of Alzheimer which causes dementia, especially vascular dementia(decreased blood flow to the brain)."

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Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer's

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Dr. Jonathan Fellows, D.O., Michigan Institute for Neurological Disorders explains, "Dementia is the umbrella term that encompasses a group of symptoms that revolve around memory loss, cognition, and difficulty completing tasks. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia accounting for 60-80% of all cases of dementia. Additional forms of dementia include vascular cognitive impairment, Lewy body disease, and various frontotemporal dementias." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather