Changes in an individual’s walking, chewing, sleeping and how they feel can be early indications of dementia. Dementia is the ongoing loss of cognitive skills due to brain cells being destroyed. Symptoms include memory loss, changes in personality, personal hygiene neglect and trouble socializing. The most common cause is Alzheimer’s, but a stroke, Parkinson’s, substance abuse, severe head injuries or other health related conditions can also trigger dementia.
Long before the obvious symptoms appear, behavior changes can be a sign that one has it.
According to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, biting an apple can determine one’s odds of getting dementia. In Sweden, researchers studied 577 people who were 77 or older. They discovered that the ones who found it difficult to chew had a higher risk of dementia. It could be that, as people age and lose teeth, it’s more difficult to chew. Chewing less will lower the flow of blood to the brain, increasing the chances of mental decline.
One’s style of walking can signal dementia. This was presented in a 2012 report at the Alzheimer’s International Conference. Many studies showed a correlation between abnormal walking styles and signs of mental decline during neuropsychological tests. One study analyzed how 19 elderly subjects walked at home. Individuals with a slower pace also had less brain volume.
One’s sleep cycle can lead to mental decline. Annals of Neurology published a study in December 2011 where they studied 1,300 women over 75 for five years. By the end of five years, 39 percent of these otherwise healthy women had developed mild dementia. The research showed that one’s weak circadian rhythms caused an 80 percent higher chance of developing dementias. These were people who were less active in the early hours of the day.
Excess weight is linked to heart disease, type two diabetes and arthritis. A neurology study from May 2011 proved a connection between high BMI and increased dementia risk. Studying 8,534 twins aged 65 or higher, 350 definitely had dementia, while 114 faced the possibility. When their BMI from 30 years earlier was noted, researchers found that those with dementia or the risk of it were 70 percent more likely to have had excess weight.
One’s emotions can affect brain health. The Archives of General Psychiatry (now JAMA Psychiatry) published a study that followed 13,000 people in California for six years. The risk of Alzheimer’s doubled in those with late-life depression. The risk tripled in individuals who also had mid-life depression.
As with any disease, one must eat healthy, sleep well and stay upbeat. Knowing the early signs of dementia can help one understand the risk of mental decline in themselves and loved ones. Behavioral changes should not be overlooked.
Sources for this article include:
- Greater blood pressure control is key to preventing cognitive impairment and dementia, scientists find
- Adding more dietary choline can cut back the risk of dementia
- Understanding the medical differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Antacid drugs linked to increased risk for heart attack, dementia and renal failure