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Warning Signs of Dementia & What You Can Do Now

Struggling to remember a word or name, forgetting why you walked into a room, getting lost in a once-familiar area. These momentary lapses are often called “senior moments,” and they sometimes signal something more serious: the onset of dementia.

How Common is Dementia?

Almost 10 percent of US adults ages 65 and older have dementia. Another 22 percent have mild cognitive impairment. What’s the difference?

  • Dementia is an umbrella term for impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions which interferes with everyday activities. There are several types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, vascular, Lew body and others. 
  • Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an early state of memory loss or cognitive ability loss, but people with MCI maintain an ability to perform activities of daily living. Not everyone who has MCI will develop dementia as symptoms may stay the same or even improve. It’s estimated that 10-20% of people with MCI who are age 65 or older will develop dementia over a one-year period.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 40% of dementia cases may be prevented or delayed. That’s why it’s important to discuss signs of dementia with your provider and take action to address your risk factors. 

Warning Signs of Dementia

The following are early signs of dementia. If you experience any of the following, talk to your primary care provider. 

  1. Difficulties with language (not able to find the right words for things).
  2. Difficulty with concentration and reasoning.
  3. Problems with complex tasks (paying bills, cooking, or balancing a checkbook).
  4. Getting lost in a familiar place.

Preventing or Delaying Dementia

Addressing your risk factors early can help delay or even prevent the onset of dementia. Steps you can take include: 

  1. Quitting smoking 
  2. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure
  3. Being physically active
  4. Maintaining a healthy weight
  5. Getting enough sleep
  6. Staying engaged in life
  7. Managing blood sugar

Other risk factors cannot be addressed, such as age and race/ethnicity. Older African Americans are twice as likely to have dementia as Caucasian people, and Hispanic people are 1.5 times more likely. Past traumatic brain injuries are also a risk factor.

Diagnosing Dementia

When dementia is suspected, several tools are used to diagnose your condition. These include a physical exam, cognitive tests, blood and spinal fluid tests and brain scans. A diagnosis of dementia can be distressing and overwhelming, but there are resources for support. Newer medications also offer hope for slowing disease progression and improving quality of life. 

If you or a loved one has questions or concerns, reach out to your Primary Care provider or Neurologist.

Adeolu Morawo, MBChB
Adeolu Morawo, MBChB

Adeolu Morawo, MBChB is a neurologist with CHI Health.

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