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Sure Signs You're Getting Dementia, According to Science

Doctor warns these five signs could indicate you have dementia.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

More than 55 million people worldwide have dementia–a brain disorder that affects thinking and social abilities, as well as memory. Dementia is a serious condition that can interfere in a person's daily life and it can be deadly. While dementia can happen early on in life, it's more common in the older adults over 65, but it's not a normal part of aging There are specific signs to be aware of that indicate you could have dementia and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who explains symptoms that indicate you could have dementia. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Difference Between Normal Aging And Dementia

Sacred mature woman.

"As we age, it's normal for our memories to become a bit less sharp," Dr. Mitchell reminds us. "We may have trouble recalling names or where we left our keys. However, these memory lapses are usually not severe and don't interfere with our daily lives. Dementia, on the other hand, is a severe condition that can significantly affect a person's ability to think, remember, and function independently. So how can you tell the difference between normal aging and dementia? Several key signs may indicate dementia. First, people with dementia often have difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as driving to a familiar location or following a recipe. They may also have trouble with problem-solving and decision-making. Additionally, they may experience changes in mood or behavior, such as depression, anxiety, or aggression. Finally, people with dementia often have problems with language, including difficulty finding the right word or forgetting familiar words. If you notice any of these changes in yourself or a loved one, it's essential to see a doctor for a diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life."


Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimer's?

Portrait of worried senior man sitting on sofa in living room

Dr. Mitchell says, "Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases. Dementia is a general term for symptoms that occur when cognitive functions, such as memory and decision-making, are impaired. Alzheimer's affects the regions of the brain responsible for learning and memory explicitly. The disease progresses slowly, starting with mild forgetfulness and eventually leading to complete loss of cognitive function. While there is no cure for Alzheimer's, treatments can help manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging, and it cannot be prevented. However, some risk factors may increase your chances of developing the disease. These include age, family history, and genetics. If you have one or more of these risk factors, it does not mean that you will necessarily develop Alzheimer's. However, it is essential to be aware of the risks so that you can take steps to protect your cognitive health. You can do many things to keep your mind sharp as you age, such as eating a healthy diet, staying active, and challenging your brain with new experiences. By understanding the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's, you can take steps to protect your brain."


Memory Problems

Pensioner reading message on mobile phone

"Memory problems are often one of the first signs of dementia," Dr. Mitchell emphasizes. "As the disease progresses, it can become increasingly difficult to remember recent events, names, faces, and other information. They may also forget how to do everyday tasks. For many people with dementia, memory loss is so severe that they can no longer remember basic facts about themselves or their loved ones. In some cases, memory problems may be accompanied by other changes in thinking and behavior, such as difficulty paying attention or making decisions. While memory loss alone does not necessarily mean that someone has dementia, it is often one of the earliest and most noticeable symptoms."


Difficulty Thinking Abstractly

Stressed middle 60s aged worker woman massaging head suffering of headache in home office.

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Dementia is a broad term used to describe a decline in cognitive function. This can include difficulties with memory, language, problem-solving, and thinking abstractly. The early signs of dementia are subtle and easy to overlook for many people. However, as the condition progresses, these difficulties become more pronounced and can start to interfere with daily life. One of the most common early signs of dementia is difficulty thinking abstractly. This can manifest itself in several ways. For example, someone may have trouble understanding concepts like time or money. They may also have difficulty understanding jokes or satire. They may find it harder to see the big picture or connect the dots. For many people, difficulty thinking abstractly is one of the first noticeable signs of dementia. If you or someone you know is struggling with this symptom, it's essential to seek medical help. A doctor can perform tests to rule out other causes and guide how to best manage the condition. People with dementia may have trouble understanding concepts like time and money. They may also struggle with decision-making or problem-solving." 


Trouble With Language

Senior woman in consultation with her female doctor or therapist

"One of the early signs of dementia is trouble with language," Dr Mitchell shares. "This can manifest in several ways, from struggling to find the right word to saying things that don't make sense. This is one of the first signs that something is wrong for many people. Language problems are often caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language. This can be due to Alzheimer's disease, which slowly destroys brain cells, or a stroke, which can damage the brain's language centers. Dementia can also cause problems with executive function, which can make it challenging to plan and organize words into coherent sentences. For many people with dementia, language problems can be frustrating and isolating. They may find it hard to communicate their needs and may become withdrawn. It's essential to seek help if you notice any changes in your loved one's language skills, as early intervention can help to maximize their ability to communicate."


Changes In Mood And Behavior

good memory

According to Dr Mitchell, "Behavioral and mood changes are among the earliest signs of dementia. As the disease progresses, people with dementia may experience more marked changes in mood and behavior. They may become agitated, anxious, or depressed. They may also have problems with sleep and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. Dementia can also cause people to act out in ways out of character, such as becoming argumentative or belligerent. If you notice any changes in mood or behavior in a loved one, it's essential to talk to their doctor. While some mood and behavior changes are a normal part of aging, pronounced or sudden changes may signify dementia. Early diagnosis is essential for getting the best possible care and treatment. If you're concerned about a loved one's mental health, don't hesitate to reach out for help."


Impaired Motor Skills

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress

Dr Mitchell says, "As we age, it's normal for our motor skills to decline a bit. We may find it harder to write clearly or to button our shirts. But when these changes are more pronounced and occur in conjunction with other symptoms, they may indicate dementia. Dementia is a general term for a decline in cognitive function due to disease or injury. This can include memory loss, difficulty communicating, and impaired motor skills. Motor skills are controlled by the part of the brain responsible for movement, called the motor cortex. This brain area can be affected by many common causes of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, Lewy body disease, and frontotemporal dementia. As dementia progresses, the ability to move purposefully and smoothly declines. People may lose the ability to walk, feed themselves, or dress. They may develop abnormal movements such as repetitive hand wringing or tongue thrusting in some cases. As motor skills decline, so does the ability to interact with the world around us. This can lead to social isolation and further decline." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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