Common health disorders that could actually be signs of dementia

An old person possibly forgetting - therefore a sign of dementia
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images/Westend61)

An Alzheimer's specialist has highlighted that a range of common health issues might actually be warning signs of dementia. Studies have shown that more than 10 per cent of those aged 65 and over are affected by the condition.

The devastating illness often results in people forgetting their closest loved ones. Studies also show that one in three people aged 65 and over pass away with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, reports the Mirror.

As dementia cases continue to climb, early detection is increasingly critical. However, diagnosis is complicated by what are termed 'dementia mimickers' - various medical conditions that present symptoms similar to those of dementia.

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Dr Nicole Purcell works as a neurologist and holds the position of senior director of clinical care at the Alzheimer's Association. She has now identified several illnesses that can obscure the accurate diagnosis of this debilitating disease,

Memory problems are frequently the most noticeable symptom, but Dr Purcell emphasizes that there isn't a single definitive indicator of dementia. Dr Purcell said: "So it's not a one size fits all situation. There isn't just one symptom, I'd like there to be.

"There are things we call 'dementia mimickers'. Things like vitamin deficiency (B12/B1) can cause difficulties with memory. Depression can cause memory difficulty in of itself. That gets treated and often the memory issues disappear or improve. Things like medication patients are on. So there are different things that cause dementia-like symptoms."

Sleep issues can also pose a problem according to the doctor. She said: "Sleep apnea, sleep difficulty. They cause patients to have problems with their memory. That's one of the reasons that when a patient does present with these concerns then we do a work up.

"We check their medication list, we do blood work to make sure there's no kidney, liver or thyroid dysfunction that would be causing these symptoms. We treat any depression or anxiety. To make sure we can rule out other causes for dementia-like symptoms."

The battle against dementia has seen significant strides over the past two decades, with new treatments emerging that can slow the progression of cognitive decline, although widespread availability remains on the horizon. Medical professionals advocate that lifestyle adjustments made in mid-life can substantially reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Dr Purcell said: "We generally say what is good for the heart is good for the brain. So discontinuing any cigarette or alcohol use. Making sure blood pressure is controlled., diabetes is controlled."

The doctor further highlighted the importance of keeping socially and mentally engaged. She said: "Crosswords puzzles, learning something new or, I say, even just trying something you usually do in the day, try and do it differently. Social interaction also seems to be a significant risk factor that you can improve. So staying socially, physically and mentally engaged is incredibly important.

"The risk of dementia can be reduced by around 40 per cent if you make lifestyle changes mid-life. It is a huge difference. There is a fear factor. And there is a stigma factor but just get it checked."

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