Read to learn about the signs of dementia that are often overlooked.
Dementia is a term used to describe a decline in cognitive function, including memory, language, and problem-solving abilities. It is a common condition in older adults, but it can also affect younger people. There are many conventional early signs of dementia, such as memory loss and difficulty with language, but there are also lesser known signs that may indicate a cognitive impairment.
It is important to be aware of these signs and to seek medical advice if you notice any changes in your own cognitive abilities or those of a loved one.
According to a Japanese study published in Plos One, 2015, changes in appetite and unusual cravings can be early signs of dementia. In some cases, people with dementia may develop a craving for non-food items, such as paper or dirt, and may even eat spoiled or inedible objects.
These changes can happen because dementia affects the parts of the brain that regulate taste buds and appetite. As a result, people with dementia may lose their sense of taste or may experience a change in their food preferences.
Deterioration of oral health
A 2020 study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that bacteria in the human mouth may be linked to the development of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. The study also found that inflammation in the gums may be associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's.
The human mouth is home to over 700 different species of bacteria, so it is important to maintain proper oral hygiene to mitigate the risks of developing dementia. This may involve regular brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental check-ups to prevent gum disease and other oral health issues. By taking these steps, individuals may be able to reduce their risk of developing dementia and maintain good overall health.
Difficulties perceiving sarcasm
The inability to pick up on sarcasm may be related to dementia. In 2009, a study by the University of California, San Francisco found that individuals who have difficulty detecting sarcasm or ironic speech may be showing early signs of dementia. This may be due to changes in the brain that affect language processing and interpretation.
Compulsive behavior is an unexpected early sign of dementia, especially when it is newly developed later in life. According to research by UCLA, 38% of patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and 10% of patients with Alzheimer's disease exhibited compulsive behavior.
The Journal of Neuropsychiatry has determined that these changes in behavior may be due to changes in the frontal lobes, the part of the brain that is primarily responsible for impulse control.
Sense of smell
The inability to differentiate and detect smells can be an early warning sign of Alzheimer's, which was determined by a 2018 study in Biosensors. A person who has this onset symptom may find it difficult to differentiate daily sources of smell, such as baby powder and gasoline.
The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease further determined that the changes within the brain that are seen in Alzheimer's patients are reflected in the brains of people who have olfactory dysfunction. It is said that exposure to certain strong smells, such as essential oils and lemon, can help to bring back the sense of smell to a certain degree.
Loss of balance and falling
Tripping and falling more often can be a sign of the early onset of Alzheimer's, as determined by a brain imaging study published in the journal Neurology. The study found that people with Alzheimer's disease had a decline in motor skills and developed mobility problems as the disease progressed.
This is thought to be due to the damage that Alzheimer's causes to the brain, which can affect a person's ability to control their movements. Early onset signs of this decline can include loss of grip strength, trouble walking, sitting and getting up, etc.
Depression can have serious consequences on cognitive function, particularly in older individuals. Studies have shown that women with depression are twice as likely to experience cognitive impairment, while men with depression are four times more likely to have such issues.
The International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has noted that late-life depression can be a precursor to Alzheimer's disease. It is therefore important for individuals experiencing depression to seek treatment in order to reduce their risk of cognitive decline and potentially prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease.
One unusual sign of dementia can be sudden instances of breaking the law. Law-abiding citizens who uncharacteristically start stealing, trespassing, or driving recklessly may be showing early onset signs of the condition.
These actions may be a result of changes in the brain that can occur with dementia, leading to impulsive or irrational behavior. It is important for individuals who exhibit this type of behavior to be evaluated by a medical professional to determine if they are experiencing cognitive decline. Early diagnosis and treatment of dementia can help slow its progression and improve the individual's quality of life.