Symptoms Of Dementia
Dementia symptoms vary depending on the cause, but common signs and symptoms include:
- Memory loss, which is usually noticed by a spouse or someone else
- Difficulty communicating or finding words
- Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving
- Difficulty handling complex tasks
- Difficulty with planning and organizing
- Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
- Confusion and disorientation
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behavior
See a doctor if you or a loved one has memory problems or other dementia symptoms. Some treatable medical conditions can cause dementia symptoms, so it’s important to determine the underlying cause.
Many factors can eventually lead to dementia. Some factors, such as age, can’t be changed. Others can be addressed to reduce your risk.
Risk Factors You Can’t Change
- Age. The risk rises as you age, especially after age 65. However, dementia isn’t a normal part of aging, and dementia can occur in younger people.
- Family history. Having a family history of dementia puts you at greater risk of developing the condition. However, many people with a family history never develop symptoms, and many people without a family history do. Tests to determine whether you have certain genetic mutations are available.
- Down syndrome. By middle age, many people with Down syndrome develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
- Mild cognitive impairment. This involves difficulties with memory but without loss of daily function. It puts people at higher risk of dementia.
Risk Factors You Can Change
You might be able to control the following risk factors of dementia.
- Heavy alcohol use. If you drink large amounts of alcohol, you might have a higher risk of dementia. Some studies, however, have shown that moderate amounts of alcohol might have a protective effect.
- Cardiovascular risk factors. These include high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, buildup of fats in your artery walls (atherosclerosis) and obesity.
- Depression. Although not yet well-understood, late-life depression might indicate the development of dementia.
- Diabetes. If you have diabetes, you might have an increased risk of dementia, especially if it’s poorly controlled.
- Smoking. Smoking might increase your risk of developing dementia and blood vessel (vascular) diseases.
- Sleep apnea. People who snore and have episodes where they frequently stop breathing while asleep may have reversible memory loss.
The MIND Diet
This is a combination of two diets that have well-known health benefits -Mediterranean and DASH. It’s designed to prevent or slow brain decline.
Early studies show that it lowers risk of Alzheimer’s by 53% in those who follow it closely and by 35% in those who follow more loosely. (The name is short for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.)
The MIND diet has 10 groups: green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine. You have to love a diet that has wine as a food group.
The diet calls for beans every other day, poultry twice a week, and fish once a week. Or make bean-and-turkey chili to eat for a few days. All these foods are high in protein and low in saturated fats, making them good for your overall health as well as for your brain health.
Vegetables And Grains
You’ll need a salad, one other vegetable, and three servings of whole grains every day. Any vegetable will do, but collard greens, kale, and spinach are especially good. Though there’s little research on brain function and grains, part of the science behind the MIND diet may include how the foods work together. Researchers are still trying to figure out why it works so well.
Wine has been shown to improve brain health and help protect against Alzheimer’s in several studies. But the key is moderation. Typically, that’s one glass a day for women and two for men. More than that can have bad effects on brain health and may make you more likely to get dementia.
Nuts and berries are ideal snacks -both have been linked to better brain health. Blueberries and strawberries, in particular, help keep your brain working at its best and may slow symptoms linked to Alzheimer’s.
It’s delicious on bread, salad, pasta, cooked greens, and any number of other things. It’s also been shown to improve brain function over the long term and protect against dementia.
What About Unhealthy Groups?
The MIND diet specifically limits red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.
You should have fewer than 4 servings a week of red meat, less than a tablespoon of butter a day, and less than a serving a week of each of the following: whole-fat cheese, fried food, and fast food.