From sarcasm to mishaps with money – the 6 unusual signs of dementia you must know | The Sun

THERE are some signs of dementia most of us know to spot: confusion, poor memory, behavioural changes.

But hints of the condition could pop up in other unexpected ways – and earlier than you might think.

Dementia is a group of symptoms associated with a decline in brain function, affecting one in three people born in the UK at some point in their lifetime.

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, in January 2022 there were 944,000 people estimated to be living with dementia in the UK.

This ismore than ever before and that number projected to increase. 

Professor Paul Matthews, head of the Department of Brain Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London and head of the UK Dementia Research Institute told the i that most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

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The second-most common form being vascular dementia and less common forms are frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and dementia with Lewy bodies, he added.

Here are a few unexpected warning signs of the condition to look out for.

1. Money mishaps

You might notice a loved one is having more trouble counting change or paying for something they bought.

These signs – as well as difficulty 'calculating a tip, balancing a cheque book or understanding a bank statement' may some of the first noticeable signs of Alzheimer's disease, according to the US National Institute of Aging.

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Missed payments can also be an early red flag, as well as compulsive spending or making payments to anyone who asks – whether it's a legitimate request or a scam.

A study of 81,000 Americans conducted between 1999 to 2018 found that missed credit card payments could show up as far back as six years before a dementia diagnosis, according to the Financial Times. 

2. Frequent nightmares

Signs of dementia could pop up earlier than you might think – perhaps even 40 years before symptoms manifest.

Dr Abidemi Otaiku, a clinical research fellow specialising in neurology at the University of Birmingham, found that children between seven and 11 who had persistent bad dreams were nearly twice as likely to develop cognitive impairment by the age of 50, compared to those who didn't.

Cognitive impairment refers to when a person struggles with memory and other types of thinking.

A person with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is more likely to go on to develop dementia, experts at the Alzheimer's Society state.

Dr Otaiku found the same link between middle-aged and older adults who had nightmares and dementia – they more than twice as likely to develop the condition in the future.

Though he noted that further studies would be needed to determine whether bad dreams and nightmares actually cause dementia, Dr Otaiku also suggested 'that reducing bad dream frequency during early life could be an early opportunity' to prevent it.

3. Can't detect lies or sarcasm

Is your loved not following along with any ironic remarks you're making?

A University of California study from 2011 observed that people suffering from frontotemporal dementia (FTD) or Alzheimer’s found it harder to pick up on sarcasm. 

Those with FTD also couldn't tell when someone was lying, though people with Alzheimer's could.

4. A blank stare

Another early sign of dementia could be someone developing a blank stare or 'reduced gaze' – some forms can affect the ability of the eyes to track.

Professor Matthews noted that people with the condition might also miss key elements when they are looking at something 'because the brain isn’t putting together the picture in quite the right way'.

Judging distances or using the stairs might also become challenging.

5. Eating mouldy food

Changes in eating habits might be a red flag that a loved one has some form of dementia, especially if they're unknowingly eating food that has gone mouldy.

As dementia progresses, they might attempt to eat items that aren't food at all.

They could even radically change their food preferences – for example eating meat when they've been a lifelong vegetarian.

6. Less fluency

Finally, someone with dementia might start using simpler vocabulary and grammar and they could struggle with finding the right words.

The deterioration in language is much more rapid with Alzheimer's, Professor Matthews noted.

About 70 per cent of the risk of getting Alzheimer’s is due to genes, while 30 per cent is due to lifestyle and environment – something we can actively address.

“We know that biochemical and cell changes in the brain are probably occurring two decades, if not more, before the disease is manifest in some form,” Professor Matthews said.

So there are certain lifestyle choices you can make to lower your risk factors, for example by following a healthy diet, lowering your blood pressure and keeping up with exercise.

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Studies have shown that eating a healthy, Mediterranean diet could can reduce type-2 diabetes risk also cut your risk of developing dementia by almost a quarter.

Meanwhile, experts have claimed that a drug used to treat millions with type 2 diabetes could slash your risk of dementia by up to a third.

The main signs of dementia you need to know

The symptoms of dementia progress slowly over several years. Often, the symptoms are confused with other conditions and may initially be put down to old age.

  • Memory: Regularly forgetting recent events, names and faces.
  • Repetition: Becoming increasingly repetitive.
  • Misplacing things: Regularly misplacing items or putting them in odd places.
  • Confusion: Not sure of the date or time of day.
  • Disorientation: People might be unsure of their whereabouts or get lost, particularly in unfamiliar places.
  • Language: Problems finding the right words.
  • Mood and behaviour: Some people become low in mood, anxious or irritable

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