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Warning Signs You Have Alzheimer's, Says Physician

WebMD’s Chief Medical Officer shares tips on how to spot if you or your loved one has it.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Alzheimer's disease has a significant impact on quality of life. It's important to know about it so one can plan accordingly. It is progressive, meaning it will get worse over time. We still do not have good treatment so having a care plan is critical before you lose decision-making abilities or your loved ones get overwhelmed. Read on to learn about the warning signs of Alzheimer's—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


You Can't Follow Directions

older man with dementia talking to doctor
Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke

One of the first warning signs of Alzheimer's is an inability to follow directions, particularly with familiar items. For example, messing up on a family recipe. Or forgetting an ingredient for a cake that has been made several times before. 


You Can't Function Without GPS

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress

Another warning sign is getting lost on the way home. Or having to use GPS for everything— even in one's home neighborhood.  


You Made Simple Mistakes in Your Taxes

Surprised senior mature woman counting bills at home.

This is the time of year when we see people who are good at math make mistakes in their tax prep. That's often an early sign. 


You Repeat Yourself

Senior woman conducting an interview

Everyone tends to repeat the same story from time to time, but it's a warning sign if you often repeat stories you told earlier in the day or the day before.


What You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer's

Group seniors with dementia builds a tower in the nursing home from colorful building blocks

We don't know for sure what helps prevent Alzheimer's. A healthy diet of fish, fruits, and vegetables plays a role. Social connections—real ones—matter in terms of combating loneliness which often causes early dementia. Keeping the mind active — learning a new language or hobby also helps. 


What You Should Do if You Notice These Signs?

Radiologist looking at the MRI scan images.

If one does notice signs, you should get imaging of the brain. Sometimes it's a CT scan but more often it's an MRI. Making lifestyle changes – eating healthy and exercising- may delay progression. There also are numerous clinical trials taking place. 


Stay Connected

older couple doing yoga in front of a laptop
Shutterstock / insta_photos

In terms of social connections — get together with friends for coffee. Consider starting a book club — it keeps the mind active and promotes connection. Even weekly religious services plan an important role with connections. We continue to make new brain connections as we get older. So it may take longer to process, but we don't lose our smarts as we get older! Keep your brain and social connections active.

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Eat Well

Senior couple cooking healthy food and drinking red wine at house kitchen.

It's not about diets but patterns of eating — substituting meat once or twice a week for fish, smaller portions of foods, more whole grains instead of refined grains, water vs alcohol. Another key piece is looking for foods with antioxidants – fresh fruit, fish , and even coffee —- they help prevent clots. 

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Tired senior woman after jogging. Tired senior woman resting after running outdoors. African female runner standing with hands on knees. Fitness sport woman resting after intensive evening run

Even if you can't exercise 30 min 5 days a week — start with 10 min 2-3 times. Work up to it. Try power walking for 15 min 3 times a week.

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The Final Word from the Doctor

Male doctor and his patient shaking hands in the hospital.

Remember, since age is a major factor for Alzheimer's. You still need to focus on heart disease, cancer and other health issues. So a healthy lifestyle will also help prevent those conditions and incorporating some of the key pieces above is a great way for long-term preventative care.

John Whyte, MD, MPH
Dr. John Whyte, MD, MPH is a popular physician and writer who has been communicating to the public about health issues for nearly two decades. Read more about John