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Signs You Have Dementia and Don't Even Know It

Learn why it's easy to miss the early signs of dementia. 

Dementia is a common condition that affects over 55 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and it triggers a change in cognitive functions such as memory and thinking. The disorder can seriously impact a person's daily routine and disrupt life to the point of needing a caregiver. Learning the signs of dementia is vital for catching the condition early on and taking preventive measures quickly in an effort to slow down its progression. However, it's easy to overlook the symptoms and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who share what to know about dementia and signs that indicate you could have it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


It's Easy to Miss the Signs of Dementia

Sad senior woman looking away at home

Vanessa P. Lewis, MD, Conviva Care Centers tells us, "It can be easy to overlook the signs of early mild dementia because there is a misconception that the normal process of aging includes memory loss and a decrease in cognitive function. Normal aging can affect brain speed and attention, however changes in dementia are more severe."


What to Know About Dementia

Doctor and senior woman wearing facemasks

Dr. Lewis says, "Dementia or major neurocognitive disorder is not a normal part of the aging process. There are also different types of dementia, not all dementia is Alzheimer's dementia. If you are concerned about your brain health, it is important to see your primary care doctor to do a quick screening test."


How to Tell Normal Aging from Dementia


Verna Porter, MD, neurologist and director of the Dementia, Alzheimer's Disease and Neurocognitive Disorders at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA tells us, "Normal, age-related memory changes are very different from dementia. The main difference between age-related memory loss and dementia (such as Alzheimer's disease) is that in normal aging the forgetfulness does not interfere with your ability to carry on with normal daily activities.  In other words, the memory lapses have little impact on your daily life, or your ability to carry on the usual chores, tasks and routines that comprise our daily lives. In contrast, dementia is characterized by marked, persistent, and disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment or abstract reasoning, that significantly interfere with and disrupt your normal daily activities. Functionally, patients with mild AD will require assistance in completing tasks such as handling finances, traveling, planning parties, etc. It is the performance of these instrumental activities of daily living that is most affected in the mild stages of the disease. Driving may also be impacted, and it is important to formally access driving capacity early, since visuospatial/visuoperceptual declines and difficulties with reaction speed may start to manifest relatively early in the disease.  Memory loss is moderate, especially for recent events, and interferes with daily activities. Individuals have moderate difficulty with solving problems, they cannot function independently at community affairs, and they have difficulty performing some daily activities and hobbies, especially complex ones."


How to Help Prevent or Slow Down the Symptoms of Dementia

According to Dr. Lewis, "Lifestyle changes that can help prevent dementia are similar to heart disease. You want to make sure you are eating a heart healthy diet (low fat), physical activity (150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity), stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight and have well controlled conditions such as type 2 DM and high blood pressure. Research does show that good nutrition, physical activity and mental and social engagement may provide benefits in preventing dementia."


Talk With Your Physician

Mature woman with her doctor in ambulance talking about healthcare

Dr. Lewis says, " If you are concerned that you or a loved one has dementia or changes in their cognition, please see your primary care doctor and they can do a quick 5 minute screening test to see if you need further evaluation for dementia."


Getting Lost in Familiar Places


Dr. Lewis states, " For example, your loved one might usually go on their morning walk but recently they are having a hard time finding their way home. This is easy to miss because sometimes we dismiss lapses in memory, as normal aging."


Repetitive Questioning

Senior father and young son with tablet in a cafe

"Repeatedly asking the same question in short periods of time," can indicate dementia, Dr. Lewis says. 


Personality Changes

Portrait of sad mature woman sitting on couch at home and looking away with worry and anxiety.

Dr. Lewis shares, "Maybe your loved one used to love going out and socializing and now they like to stay at home mostly. Again sometimes we might think that our loved one is feeling down or depressed. That might be the case but again it is important that dementia is not missed."


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
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