As we grow older, many of us fear the possibility that we may be diagnosed with dementia. Few things are scarier than the thought of losing our independence due to this progressive disease.
Now, researchers at the University of Cambridge say signs of dementia can appear up to nine years before the disease is usually diagnosed.
Catching these signs early enough may offer the possibility of treating the underlying factors at a time when it can make a big difference to your long-term health.
In a summary of the research findings, the study’s first author Nol Swaddiwudhipong, a junior physician at the University of Cambridge, said:
“This is a step towards us being able to screen people who are at greatest risk — for example, people over 50 or those with high blood pressure or not getting enough exercise — and intervene at an early stage to help them reduce their risk. .”
Here are the main signs of dementia that may appear nearly a decade before symptoms are obvious enough for a diagnosis.
1. Worse scores on certain cognitive tests
The researchers looked at data from tests of half a million British participants between the ages of 40 and 69. The tests include problem solving, memory, reaction time and grip strength.
Those who fared poorly on such tests were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.
In summarizing the research findings, Swaddiwudhipong said:
“When we looked back at the patient’s history, it became clear that they exhibited some cognitive impairment several years before their symptoms became clear enough to be diagnosed promptly. The damage is often subtle, but in a number of aspects of cognition.”
2. Recent autumn
Those ultimately diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease were more likely to have experienced a fall during the previous 12 months.
Patients who develop a rare neurological condition called progressive supranuclear palsy are more than twice as likely to fall as healthy people. PSP affects a person’s balance.
3. Worse overall health
Participants who were in poor overall health were more likely to develop every type of health condition screened for in this study, including Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.
If you notice any of the symptoms listed in this study, don’t panic. In a summary of the research findings, the study’s senior author, Dr. Tim Rittman from the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, said:
“People need not worry too much if, for example, they are not good at remembering numbers. Even some naturally healthy individuals will score better or worse than their counterparts. But we would encourage anyone who has concerns or notices that their memory or memory is getting worse to talk to them [general practitioner].”
For more information about preventing dementia, read: