9 Surprising Early Signs of Dementia

an older man

Blanking out on people’s names, forgetting appointments, having problems with short-term memory—these are classic memory symptoms of early dementia. But memory loss isn’t the only sign of dementia.

In fact, there are many other behavioral changes that don’t have anything to do with memory that can be an indicator you’re heading for Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. Do you know these early signs of dementia?

In this blog, you’ll meet a successful businessman whose out-of-character behaviors were the first signs of trouble, and you’ll learn the 9 weird symptoms of dementia you need to know.

Memory loss isn’t the only sign of dementia. there are many other behavioral changes that don’t have anything to do with memory that can be an indicator you’re heading for Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. Click To Tweet

CASE STUDY: HOW RAYMOND’S ODD BEHAVIOR LED TO A DEMENTIA DIAGNOSIS

The neuropsychiatrists at Amen Clinics, the global leader in brain health, have worked with thousands of people who don’t realize that their changing behaviors could be early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Take Raymond (not his real name), for example. A highly successful businessman who had always played by the rules, Raymond visited Amen Clinics for help after his once-wonderful life started falling apart.

In his 50s he suddenly began gambling heavily, having extramarital affairs, and engaging in illegal activities at work. With his gambling and bad investments, he lost millions of dollars, nearly lost his wife of 30-plus years, and got arrested for insider trading.

He didn’t know why he was acting so out of character, but he couldn’t stop himself. After his arrest, he realized he needed help.

At Amen Clinics, Raymond underwent a functional brain imaging study using a technology called single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). SPECT looks at blood flow and activity levels in the brain. It shows areas with healthy activity, too much activity, and too little activity.

SPECT scans can be very helpful in identifying Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. And these functional brain scans can show patterns associated with these dreaded conditions years or even decades before a person develops memory loss.

Raymond’s SPECT scans showed decreased blood flow and low activity in his frontal lobes and temporal lobes, a pattern commonly seen in a type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

Even though Raymond didn’t have any problems with forgetfulness, his brain scans helped him understand what was causing his behavior changes. This allowed him to start a treatment program before potential memory problems emerged.

Here are 9 early warning signs of dementia you should investigate.

9 WEIRD SIGNS OF DEMENTIA

  1. Breaking the law

Law-abiding citizens who suddenly begin stealing, trespassing, or driving recklessly may be exhibiting early signs of dementia, in particular FTD. A study in JAMA Neurology found that in 14% of people with FTD, breaking laws was the first sign of dementia.

  1. Eating weird stuff

Changes in appetite and the foods you crave are an early warning sign of dementia, according to a Japanese study in Plos One. Some people with dementia will eat food that is rancid or spoiled or may eat non-food objects, such as flowers.

These odd changes may be due to the fact that dementia attacks parts of the brain that regulate appetite and taste buds.

  1. Falling more frequently

Do you find yourself tripping or falling more often? Be aware that a brain-imaging study in the journal Neurology that involved 125 older adults found that those who fell most frequently were more likely to have the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the study, falls as well as changes in gait may precede any cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

  1. Gum disease

A growing body of research, including a study in the Journal of Periodontology, has shown that periodontal (gum) disease is a risk factor for dementia. Gum disease is associated with inflammation, which has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day after meals and floss daily: Flossing your teeth is a brain exercise! And see a dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.

  1. Inability to pick up on sarcasm

If sarcastic remarks are going over your head, it may be related to dementia, according to brain-imaging research from the University of California, San Francisco. This study shows that the ability to discern sarcasm and other ironic speech in face-to-face encounters is diminished in people with Alzheimer’s or FTD.

  1. Engaging in compulsive behaviors

An unexpected sign of early dementia in some people is a tendency to develop new compulsive behaviors or rituals. For example, becoming a hoarder later in life may signal trouble.

A UCLA neuroimaging study using SPECT scans found that 38% of patients with FTD and 10% of those with Alzheimer’s exhibited compulsive behaviors.

More recent research in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry suggests that in people with early frontotemporal dementia, these behaviors are more likely impulse-driven due to harmful changes in the frontal lobes, which are heavily involved in impulse control.

  1. Your sense of smell is off

Are you unable to distinguish scents like cinnamon, baby powder, or gasoline? This could be one of the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. According to one study, having trouble with sense of smell (called anosmia) is one of the earliest preclinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Other research in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has found that the brains of people with olfactory dysfunction often have the same harmful changes as those seen in Alzheimer’s patients.

Scientific evidence shows that repeated exposure to certain odors can improve the ability to smell. Some suggested scents from essential oils include rose, lemon, cloves, and eucalyptus.

  1. Having clinical depression

Depression doubles the risk of cognitive impairment in women and quadruples it in men. One study in the Archives of General Psychiatry evaluated 5,781 elderly women with tests of mood and memory.

Women with 3-5 depressive symptoms were at 60% greater odds for cognitive deterioration, and women with 6 or more depression symptoms were 230% more likely to have problems! The researchers concluded that depression in older women is associated with both poor cognitive function and subsequent cognitive decline.

Late life depression may, in fact, be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. This is why it’s so critical to seek help for depression from a mental health professional. Overcoming major depressive disorder may help you ward off neurodegenerative disease.

Late life depression may, in fact, be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Click To Tweet
  1. Having ADHD or other untreated mental health problems

A 2019 study in the Journal of Attention Disorders showed that adults with ADHD are over 3 times more likely to develop dementia compared with adults who don’t have ADHD. Treating mental health disorders can help save your memory. Research shows increased dementia risk with:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Chronic stress
Adults with ADHD are over 3 times more likely to develop dementia. Click To Tweet

DEMENTIA TREATMENT

Treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is more effective when it is started early. That’s why you need to be aware of the non-memory related warning signs of this devastating disease.

If you or a loved one is struggling with any of these weird signs of Alzheimer’s disease, don’t wait to seek help. In some cases, lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, and medications (if needed) can improve symptoms.

Memory loss, depression, ADD/ADHD, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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