What Symptoms May Appear Years Before Dementia?

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These signs might point to cognitive decline nearly a decade before a formal diagnosis.

As we get older, we may fear the possibility that we could be diagnosed with dementia. Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “3 Dementia Warning Signs That May Appear Years in Advance” reports that now, researchers at the University of Cambridge say signs of dementia may appear up to nine years in advance of when the illness is typically diagnosed.

Seeing these signs early enough might offer the chance to treat the underlying factors when it can make a significant difference to long-term health.

In a summary of the research findings, the study’s first author, Nol Swaddiwudhipong, a junior doctor at the University of Cambridge, says: “This is a step towards us being able to screen people who are at greatest risk — for example, people over 50 or those who have high blood pressure or do not do enough exercise — and intervene at an earlier stage to help them reduce their risk.”

Here are the key signs of dementia that may appear years in advance of symptoms clear enough for a diagnosis, according to the recent research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

  1. Poorer scores on certain cognitive tests. The researchers examined data from tests of a half-million participants in the United Kingdom between the ages of 40 and 69. The testing included problem-solving, memory, reaction times and grip strength. Those who fared poorly on these tests were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.
  2. A recent fall. Those who were eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease were more likely than others to have had a fall during the previous year. Those who developed a rare neurological condition called progressive supranuclear palsy were more than two times as likely as healthy people to have experienced a fall. PSP impacts a person’s balance.
  3. Poorer overall health. Participants who were in poor overall health were more likely to develop every type of health condition screened for in the study, including Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.

If you notice any of the symptoms listed in the study, don’t panic, the researchers say.

The study’s senior author, Dr. Tim Rittman from the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, says, “People should not be unduly worried if, for example, they are not good at recalling numbers. Even some healthy individuals will naturally score better or worse than their peers. But we would encourage anyone who has any concerns or notices that their memory or recall is getting worse to speak to their [general practitioner].”

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Reference: Money Talks News (Feb. 13, 2023) “3 Dementia Warning Signs That May Appear Years in Advance”