20 Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's or Dementia
20 Warning Signs
The key warning sign is change. The early symptoms of dementia are changes in your ability to process information, especially new information. Here are some examples of changes in ability to remember which can indicate early warning signs of dementia:
- Losing sense of smell or taste, or changes in those senses.
- Having trouble remembering names more than you did before.
- Losing things like car keys or glasses more often than before.
- Forgetting where you parked your car more frequently.
- Not being able to remember how to get to a store or friend's house you've visited before.
- Not being able to remember the title of a movie you just saw.
- Substituting a word because you can't remember the one you wanted.
- Forgetting appointments or phone calls more frequently.
- Needing to re-read something because you forgot it.
- Repeating questions because you forgot the answer.
- Having people tell you that you already told them something.
- Feeling depressed without a particular cause.
- Not remembering whether you took your medications.
- Buying too much of things, or buying things you forgot you already have.
- Having more difficulty in organizing events, or paperwork.
- Finding it more difficult to finish complicated tasks.
- Not feeling motivated to finish a project you started.
- Feeling more irritable, less in control of your emotions.
- Having more trouble learning a new task, like how to use a new phone.
- More difficulty in handling finances than before.
If you are concerned about these warning signs for yourself or a loved one, you may want to look at Tests for Alzheimer's.
Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Poll
Does the person you are concerned about show some of these warning signs of Alzheimer's?See results without voting
Dementia Affects a Family
Why Early Diagnosis is Important
The bad news: Most people are not diagnosed with until they have a crisis which forces their family to admit there is a problem. Generally, this is four years after the symptoms have first appeared. By that time:
- Daily life has been disrupted for them and their families.
- They need considerable help to continue to function.
- It may be too late to use drugs or other therapies to delay the disease.
The good news: If you pay attention to warning signs which come before a person actually has the disease you can:
- Practice the steps of preventing Alzheimer's which can delay the disease.
- Get medical treatment early so that drug therapies which delay dementia work better.
- Have time to prepare and plan as a family.
Mild Cognitive Impairment is a Warning Sign
People who answer yes to some of the above early warning signs may not have dementia that interferes with daily living, but they may have Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). People with Mild Cognitive Impairment:
- Do have one area of impaired memory function.
- Generally, can continue normal daily living although close family members may notice a difference in their memory.
- Have trouble especially with remembering anything new.
- Won't necessarily progress to having Alzheimer's, but have a 10 to 15 times higher chance of developing the disease each year.
What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) was a term coined by Dr. Ron Peterson of the Mayo Clinic to refer to memory impairment which is less than dementia, but not quite normal.
- Dementia is defined as having two areas of impairment which affects daily living.
- People with Mild Cognitive Impairment may be able to function quite well in normal daily living but they have enough damage to their brain that they do not function the same as they had before.
For example, people with MCI might be able to balance a checkbook, but would have trouble remembering 10 new words after a ten-minute pause (see the memory test in this Hub). Someone with dementia might not remember any of them, but a person with MCI might remember only 3 or 4. If he or she were given some instruction on memory techniques, they might do better, but still would not be up to their age group in ability.
MCI Memory Test
One easy test for the early warning signs is the MIC 10 item objective recall test. The idea for the test is taken for Gary Small's and Gigi Vorgan's excellent book, The Alzheimer's Prevention Program. Here is how to take the test:
- Set a timer for 1 minute.
- Memorize the list of ten words for that minute.
- Set the timer for 10 minutes and do something else. Surf the web, fold your laundry, or do a few sit-ups.
- When the timer goes off, get a paper and pencil and write down as many of the words as you can recall without looking back at the list.
- 5 or more, your memory is probably in the normal range
- 0-4: You may want to get a further assessment to see if you show signs of Mild Cognitive Impairment. You might also want to consider adopting some of the strategies to prevent Alzheimer's.
Memory Assessment for Alzheimer's
How to Treat MCI Without Drugs
Diagnosing early warning signs means you can make lifestyle changes to prevent or delay the onset of severe symptoms. Here are the most important suggestions, which will improve anyone's memory and health:
1. Exercise: include aerobic, strength and balance exercises. Do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day and supplement this with changing your daily habits to:
- take the stairs rather than the elevator
- parking further out so you walk more
- include gardening, housework and other chores in your daily activities to make sure you move rather than sit all day.
- walk the dog
2. Eat Healthy Foods and Keep at the Correct Weight
- eat lean meats
- eat plenty of vegetables and fruits of different colors
- eat whole grains
3. Strengthen your Memory Skills
- learn memory strategies
- take a class to learn a new skill
- play games which involve thinking
- surf the web to learn something new
- learn a new language
- do word puzzles
4. Reduce Your Stress
- make sure you get enough sleep
- take time away from work and media and relax
- take breaks away from the computer to interact with someone in person
- take a time management class to learn to manage your goals and set priorities
- talk out your concerns with friends, family or a therapist if you need one
- write out your thoughts and concerns in a journal
5. Socialize: People who have an active social network are less likely to have Alzheimer's than those who spend most of their time alone. So seek out opportunities to spend time with people you already know and to make new friends:
- join a club
- talk to people in line at the store
- help a neighbor
Why Mild Cognitive Impairment is Important
MCI might be seen as the brain's equivalent to the high blood pressure and high cholesterol that we know are symptoms of potential heart attack and stroke. Like those cardiovascular symptoms we have all been taught to watch out for, MCI is not always noticeable.
Luckily, also like those more familiar symptoms, early discovery of MCI allows for early treatment through lifestyle changes, diet and medication which can delay the onset of serious dementia and Alzheimer's. Moreover, even if you don't show signs of MCI, making some healthy changes now can help keep your brain healthy.
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