Alzheimer’s is a disease that interrupts the normal functions of the brain. For the most part, these include memory, thinking, and behavior. Though some decline in memory and cognitive ability is normal as we age, Alzheimer’s is more serious. That said, there are some warning signs that can help identify and diagnose the disease. It’s important to speak to your doctor as soon as any of these symptoms develop. This way, you have the best chance to treat and manage the disease.
Risk factors for Alzheimer’s.
Age is the number one risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Most people who develop and are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are over the age of 65. After this, the risk increases even more as people age. By 85, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is almost one in three.
The second most notable risk factor for Alzheimer’s is a family history of the disease. Having someone in your immediate family who has developed Alzheimer’s puts you at greater risk of developing it too.
Finally, another major factor is believed to be heart health. If your heart health is compromised, it can cause issues in providing the brain with adequate amounts of blood. Related, most experts agree that your overall health as you age is a factor that comes into play. The healthier you are, the better chance you have to avoid developing Alzheimer’s.
Early warning signs of Alzheimer’s.
Below is a list of some of the most common early warning signs of Alzheimer’s. If you spot any of these in yourself or your loved ones, check in with a doctor. They are equipped to assist you and assess your current brain health. Again, catching Alzheimer’s disease early is key for longevity and quality of life. If caught early, the disease can often be better managed and monitored.
New or unusual memory loss is one of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s. It shouldn’t be confused with normal memory loss that many people can experience. Normal memory loss could include forgetting an appointment, then remembering later that you missed it. It could also look like forgetting someone’s name, then remembering it later. New or unusual memory loss can look like asking the same question over and over because you have forgotten the answer. It could also look like forgetting important dates or people that you have known and remembered for many years. One way to discern if memory loss is normal or significant can be to look at the impact. If day-to-day living is disrupted due to the loss, it could be more serious and point to Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Problems with regular tasks.
The inability to complete familiar tasks is another warning sign of Alzheimer’s. Needing assistance with new tasks or skills is normal, but the inability to complete familiar is something to pay attention to. An example of the inability to complete a familiar task could be getting lost while walking to a frequently visited location. It could also look like forgetting the rules to a game that you’ve played for many years. This sudden difficulty with familiar tasks is a major factor to pay attention to when looking out for early signs of Alzheimer’s.
Confusion related to time and place.
Confusion with times or places can be another early warning sign of Alzheimer’s. This can look like suddenly feeling lost in a familiar place. It can also present itself as confusion about what season or time of year we are currently in. This type of disorientation with places and time should be taken seriously. Forgetting and then quickly remembering where you are or what day is not unusual, but prolonged confusion that affects day-to-day life can point to something more serious.
Personality and mood changes.
Though sometimes difficult to pinpoint, certain personality and mood changes can be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s. People who are in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s can have drastic and unexpected shifts in mood. This is especially tied to experiencing changes in routine. Someone experiencing this symptom may suddenly become suspicious, anxious, or angry for reasons that wouldn’t normally affect them. Since it’s difficult to identify the nature of mood changes, it’s more easily flagged by people who are familiar with the affected person.
Inability to solve problems, or difficulty with abstract thinking.
A common warning sign of Alzheimer’s is a difficulty with abstract thinking. This can especially be apparent when dealing with numbers, or instructions. For people in the early stages of the disease, it can look like the inability to complete simple math, or follow a recipe. Alzheimer’s can cause problems understanding what numbers symbolize, which makes completing tasks involving numbers difficult.
An unusual trend of avoiding social situations or activities.
Becoming disinterested in regular activities and losing all initiative is an early sign of Alzheimer’s. It is usually noticeable because the affected person doesn’t regain their own interest in these activities. They may be so withdrawn that they need a reminder or push to participate in regular social activities.
Though it’s normal for anyone to misplace items once in a while, people with Alzheimer’s misplace items on a regular basis. They are also unable to ever remember where the items are. Another contributing factor for this is that people with Alzheimer’s will often put items in unusual or inappropriate places. This can sometimes lead to the person affected with Alzheimer’s accusing others of theft.
Cognitive problems with language and communicating.
An early warning sign of Alzheimer’s can be a change in communication and vocabulary skills. This can look like forgetting very common words and ways of speaking. It can also look like the inability to structure a sentence. This can sometimes make people affected by Alzheimer’s difficult to understand. They may substitute words in a confusing manner, trying to replace the words they can’t recall.
Once you have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, your doctor can provide you with the best treatment options for your case. There are many medical and non-medical options available to monitor and manage Alzheimer’s. These treatments can help with different aspects of Alzheimer’s, such as behaviour. They can also help with practical ones, such as sleep quality. As there is no cure for the disease, the main goal in treating Alzheimer’s is to increase longevity and quality of life.
The bottom line.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s is key for your longevity and treatment options. If you notice any early warning signs of the disease in yourself or others, take action. Though it can be scary to realize you may be developing Alzheimer’s, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible. They are in the best position to support you and suggest the best treatment for your situation.