10 Warning Signs of Dementia: What to Watch For & Reduce Risk

Dementia is a devastating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While some risk factors like age and genetics can’t be changed, there are many lifestyle modifications that can help reduce your chances of developing this disease.

Here’s the top 10 warning signs of dementia, the associated risk factors, and the changes you can make to protect your brain health.

1. Memory Loss that Disrupts Daily Life

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One of the most common early signs of dementia is forgetting recently learned information, important dates, or asking the same questions over and over ¹. This type of memory loss goes beyond the occasional “senior moment” and can significantly impact a person’s ability to function in their daily life.

Age and family history are two major risk factors for memory loss related to dementia. While you can’t change these factors, you can take steps to keep your brain active and engaged.

Mentally stimulating activities like reading, puzzles, and learning new hobbies can help maintain cognitive function as you age.

2. Difficulty Planning or Solving Problems

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If you or a loved one is having trouble keeping track of bills, following recipes, or solving other routine problems, it could be an early warning sign of dementia. This difficulty with planning and problem-solving may be more noticeable in people with lower levels of education.

To reduce your risk, challenge your mind regularly with puzzles, reading, or learning new skills. Keeping your brain active and engaged can help maintain cognitive function and potentially delay the onset of dementia symptoms ².

3. Trouble Completing Familiar Tasks

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Dementia can make it difficult to complete tasks that were once second nature, like driving to a familiar location or remembering the rules of a favorite game. This sign may be more apparent in people who have less social contact and engagement.

Staying socially active and participating in group activities can help reduce your risk of developing dementia. Whether it’s joining a club, attending community events, or simply spending time with friends and family, social interaction is crucial for maintaining brain health.

4. Confusion With Time or Place

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People with dementia may lose track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time ³. They may also have difficulty understanding where they are or how they got there. Hearing impairment and depression are two risk factors that can contribute to this type of confusion.

To reduce your risk, take steps to prevent and treat hearing loss, such as wearing hearing protection in noisy environments and getting regular hearing check-ups. Maintaining a regular daily routine can also help provide structure and reduce confusion.

5. Difficulty Understanding Visual Images & Spatial Relationships

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Dementia can cause problems with visual perception, such as difficulty reading, judging distances, or determining color contrast . This sign may be more common in people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

To protect your brain health, always wear appropriate safety gear during sports and other activities that could result in head injury. If you have experienced a TBI, work with your healthcare provider to manage any long-term effects and reduce your risk of developing dementia.

6. New Problems With Speaking or Writing

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Trouble following conversations, finding the right words, or calling things by the wrong name can be early signs of dementia. Age and family history are two major risk factors for this type of language difficulty.

Engaging in word games, reading, and mentally stimulating conversations can help keep your language skills sharp as you age. Challenge yourself to learn new words and express yourself clearly in both speech and writing.

7. Misplacing Things & Losing the Ability to Retrace Steps

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People with dementia may put items in unusual places or accuse others of stealing when they can’t find something. Depression and low social contact are two risk factors that can contribute to this sign.

To reduce your risk, keep your home environment organized and use memory aids like notes or labels to help you keep track of important items. Staying socially engaged and treating any underlying mental health issues can also help prevent this type of cognitive decline.

8. Decreased or Poor Judgment

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Dementia can cause changes in judgment or decision-making, such as giving money away inappropriately or neglecting personal hygiene. Excessive alcohol consumption and depression are two risk factors that can contribute to poor judgment.

To protect your brain health, limit your alcohol intake and seek treatment for any underlying mental health conditions. Surround yourself with trusted friends and family members who can offer support and guidance when needed.

9. Withdrawal from Work or Social Activities

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If you or a loved one is avoiding hobbies, social engagements, or work projects, it could be a sign of early dementia. Low social contact and depression are two major risk factors for this type of withdrawal .

To reduce your risk, make an effort to schedule and keep social appointments, even if you don’t always feel like it. Finding new ways to stay connected, such as joining a club or volunteering, can also help maintain social engagement and cognitive function.

10. Changes in Mood & Personality

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Dementia can cause changes in mood and personality, such as becoming easily upset, fearful, suspicious, depressed, or anxious. Depression and low social contact are two risk factors that can contribute to these changes.

To protect your brain health, take steps to manage stress and treat any underlying mental health conditions. Maintaining supportive relationships with friends and family can also help provide a sense of stability and reduce the risk of mood and personality changes.

While exhibiting one or more of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean a person has dementia, it’s important to see a doctor if symptoms are worsening. Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

What Else You Can Do

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In addition to the specific lifestyle changes mentioned, there are several general habits that can help reduce your risk of developing dementia:

– Exercise regularly with physical activities you enjoy
– Follow a healthy diet like the Mediterranean, DASH, or MIND diets
– Manage cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, and weight
– Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
– Get the recommended amount of sleep for your age group

By making these healthy lifestyle choices and staying alert to the warning signs of dementia, you can take proactive steps to protect your brain health and reduce your risk of developing this devastating disease.

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.