Dementia: Expert discusses the signs and symptoms
Dementia is a general term for a number of syndromes tied to progressive brain decline. Many people associate the onset of dementia with memory loss but there are also a subset of symptoms tied to memory loss. For example, memory loss can cause a person to get lost and struggle to find their way home after going for a walk, explains the Alzheimer’s Society (AS).
Memory loss and orientation problems may also prompt someone to repeatedly walk around the house or leave the house at any time of day or night, explains the AS.
The hallmark symptom can therefore give rise to unusual behavioural changes that may signal the onset of dementia.
As the AS points out, a person with dementia might walk about for a number of other reasons too.
“The reasons may not be obvious – when you ask them, the person may not remember or be able to tell you,” notes the charity.
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To try to establish whether the walking patterns are tied to dementia, try to keep a journal for a couple of weeks, including notes about the person’s behaviour and any reasons they give for why they are walking about, it advises.
Other symptoms to watch out for
Dementia symptoms may include problems with:
- Thinking speed
- Mental sharpness and quickness
- Language, such as using words incorrectly, or trouble speaking
- Difficulties doing daily activities.
According to the NHS, people with dementia can lose interest in their usual activities, and may have problems managing their behaviour or emotions.
“They may also find social situations difficult and lose interest in relationships and socialising,” explains the health body.
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How to reduce your risk
There’s no certain way to prevent all types of dementia, as researchers are still investigating how the condition develops.
However, there’s good evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of developing dementia when you’re older.
In fact, research suggests that around a third of cases of dementia may be due to factors that we could change.
What is good for the heart is also good for the brain.
“Risk factors for cardiovascular disease (like high blood pressure and stroke) are also risk factors for dementia, so what is good for your heart is good for your brain,” says Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Ways to mitigate the risk of cardiovascular disease include cutting out smoking and being physically active on a regular basis.
Other key tips include:
- Keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy balanced diet
- Drink fewer than 14 units of alcohol per week.
Some research has also found that identifying and treating high blood pressure in midlife may reduce the risk of dementia.
Keeping your mind active is also likely to reduce your risk of dementia.
“Regularly challenging yourself mentally seems to build up the brain’s ability to cope with disease,” explains the AS.
According to the health body, you should find something you like doing that challenges your brain and do it regularly.
- Study for a qualification or course, or just for fun
- Learn a new language
- Do puzzles, crosswords or quizzes
- Play card games or board games
- Read challenging books or write (fiction or non-fiction).
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