Increased forgetfulness is a normal part of the aging process. But if you’ve noticed a serious change in your memory and thinking ability as you age, it may be related to Alzheimer’s.
In over 90% of adults, Alzheimer’s symptoms won’t appear until past age 60. However, a small number of early-onset cases can begin in people as young as 50 years old, so it’s important to know what signs to look out for.
Don’t miss your chance for early detection and diagnosis. Read on to learn about 8 things that may be early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
1. Forgetfulness and Memory Problems
Profound memory loss is the quintessential symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. In the early stages, though, forgetfulness is easy to miss. Here are a few symptoms to watch for:
- Frequently misplacing items and being unable to find them
- Forgetting names, places, and events
- Inability to remember things that just happened
- Losing track of time and dates
All of us will walk into a room at some point and completely forget what we’re doing there. But if memory loss starts to interfere with your everyday life, it may be the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Contact your doctor if the forgetfulness becomes excessive, you’re constantly repeating the same questions, or you start to rely on reminders from others.
2. Decreased Problem Solving Ability
Alzheimer’s disease can make your math, logic, and problem-solving skills take a serious hit. As with forgetfulness, a slight decrease in problem-solving ability is expected with age. If you start to notice serious trouble with tasks like balancing a checkbook, budgeting, or planning a schedule, it may be a cause for concern.
3. Mood and Personality Changes
Alzheimer’s disease is linked to a number of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. Aside from that, memory loss can lead to people becoming suspicious of their surroundings and other people.
Some changes in mood due to upset routines or bad events are to be expected. But if you or a loved one starts to become fearful, agitated, or suspicious even when they’re not out of their comfort zone, it may be a sign of dementia.
4. Decreased Visual Perception
One of the lesser known symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is a decrease in the brain’s ability to make sense of visual cues. This is different from age-related vision loss like cataracts or macular degeneration.
People affected with Alzheimer’s may start to have trouble reading, telling colors apart, or differentiating low-contrast text and images. They also might notice difficulty with spatial awareness and distance judgment. When combined, these visual deficits can make driving difficult or impossible.
5. Difficulty Writing and Conversing
The brain’s language centers are heavily affected by Alzheimer’s disease. As such, people with Alzheimer’s tend to have difficulty recalling words, holding a long conversation, or writing more than simple lists. They may also be unable to jump into or initiate a conversation themselves.
Forgetting a name here and there is nothing to be concerned about. But if you find yourself constantly grasping for words or unable to follow along while chatting with friends, it’s time to bring it up with your physician.
6. Poor Judgement and Decision Making
Dementia clouds our brain’s ability to make well-thought-out decisions and plans. As such, people developing Alzheimer’s may become increasingly impulsive, neglect their daily routines, or make poor financial decisions.
Bad decisions are an unfortunate part of everyone’s lives. A cause for concern arises when someone begins to forget basic hygiene, give away large amounts of money without good cause, or otherwise make decisions that may endanger their health and wellbeing.
7. Problems with Familiar Tasks
Alzheimer’s disease can make tasks you’ve done a thousand times before suddenly become difficult. Take note of signs like forgetting how to make the coffee, being unable to navigate to a familiar place, or not remembering how to play your favorite game.
8. Social Withdrawal
Because of its large effect on memory and language, Alzheimer’s can be a very isolating disease. People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may find themselves withdrawing from social events, work, and family as they try to hide the changes they’re experiencing.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a quieter life and some more time to yourself as you get older. But make sure your withdrawal isn’t due to something more serious than a desire for alone time. If you start to lose interest or the ability to keep up with your friends and hobbies, it may be time to talk with your doctor.
While doctors still aren’t quite sure what causes Alzheimer’s disease, the current theory is that it’s due to a combination of genes and lifestyle factors. Because of that, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll be safe from the disease.
That being said, there are ways that you can lessen your chances of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. Doctors recommend eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep. There may also be some merit to brain training puzzles, staying socially active, and having the occasional glass of wine.
Importance of Early Action
Researchers agree that early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is vital for good outcomes. What seems like early-onset Alzheimer’s may actually be an unrelated health condition, like thyroid issues, which would alter the course of your treatment. Starting treatments for Alzheimer’s right away gives you the best chance of slowing cognitive decline and allows you to play a larger role in planning for your future.
It’s also important to go over your options for long-term care while you or your loved one are still able to make large decisions. Have a conversation about who will be responsible for care, if you’ll invest in home care services, or if assisted living is the best option. If you decide on assisted living, Palmcrest recommends choosing a facility with specialized memory care services available.
What to Do If You Notice the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s
When it comes to dementia, early intervention is the key to a good outcome. If you notice the warning signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to contact your doctor right away. They’ll be able to perform more detailed tests and help you come up with a plan of action.
For more health and wellness advice, make sure to check out the rest of the Minority Health blog.