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10 Alarming Warning Signs You Already Have Dementia Graphic © healthpowerboost.com. Background photo: Pixabay (PD)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 55 million people live with dementia around the globe, and nearly 10 million new cases are reported annually. This implies that someone in the world develops dementia-related cognitive decline every few seconds. And since age is the most significant risk factor for the condition, the rates of dementia are projected to increase to 139 million by 2050, along with the aging population. 
With the increasing prevalence of dementia, you might be concerned for yourself or a loved one. As such, it’s essential to understand how dementia progresses, the warning signs, and whether there is anything you can do to curb it.
In this article, we highlight the warning signs and progression of dementia; drawing on the opinions and advice presented by Dr. Sten Ekberg, a holistic doctor and Olympic decathlete.
What Is Dementia?
Experiencing subtle memory problems is not unusual as we get older. But a persistent difficulty with cognition that significantly hinders your ability to perform everyday tasks might be a warning sign of dementia. So, what is dementia, and when should you get worried?
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) defined dementia as “the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.” 
Contrary to some assumptions, dementia is not a single disease parse. It’s an umbrella term that describes several conditions adversely affecting brain health. The most common is Alzheimer’s at 60-80% of dementia cases, followed by vascular dementia.  Other types of dementia include dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal, Huntington’s, and mixed dementia.
As Dr. Ekberg explains, dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. This may be due to neuroinflammation, brain disease, degeneration, or injury. Brain cell damage leads to deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from normal biological aging.  But how do you differentiate dementia from normal age decline?
10 Warning Signs Of Dementia
Dementia “is one of the most devastating conditions that anyone could ever get because even though the body is still there, the person that we once knew is not there anymore,” Dr. Ekberg says. While this is a grim statement considering late Stage dementia has no cure, he points out that it’s possible to alleviate and reverse the symptoms early on.
“We need the brain to fix the brain,” he states, elaborating on the need for the function of the brain to be there to prevent further cognitive decline. This highlights the urgency of early diagnosis of dementia before it progresses into later Stages where the damage is irreversible.
We must look at how the condition unfolds to recognize the clinical warning signs of dementia and support our loved ones. For this, Dr. Ekberg references the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS), which uses a seven-Stage model to describe the condition’s progression. 
Stage 1: Normal
Stage 2: Very mild cognitive decline
Stage 3: Early-Stage dementia (mild decline)
Stage 4: Early-Stage dementia (moderate decline)
Stage 5: Mid-Stage dementia (moderately severe decline)
Stage 6: Mid-Stage dementia (severe cognitive decline)
Stage 7: Late-Stage dementia
Keep in mind that each stage’s symptoms are not set in stone. There is no hard-and-fast line with the staging system, and signs of dementia may vary and even overlap. Regardless, these 10 warning signs of dementia should give you a good idea of its progression.
1. Occasionally Forgetting Familiar Words And Location Of Everyday Objects
During Stage 1 of dementia, the individual does not display any signs of cognitive decline. They are deemed as mentally healthy and have no dementia diagnosis.
However, Dr. Ekberg points out that “before we ever get to any noticeable decline in cognitive function, there’s already been a progression of physical decline” from impairment to the cellular machinery of your brain cells. He explains that signs of degeneration of the brain’s physical capacity may include twitching, smaller handwriting (micrographia), impaired smell, declining sleep quality, and a hunched posture.
Early signs of memory impairment start showing up during Stage 2. The person may forget familiar words or the location of everyday objects from time to time. These signs may not be obvious to loved ones and caregivers, especially since they could as well be age-related memory changes. 
2. Forgetting The Names Of People They’ve Recently Met
Under Stage 3 of the GDS scale, symptoms of memory impairments become more apparent. Dementia has not progressed enough to significantly impact everyday life. But you or a loved one may start noticing unusual memory slips such as having difficulties recalling the names of new people
3. Trouble Retaining New Material And Planning
Still under Stage 3, the person may forget recent material. For example, they may immediately forget the content of the first warning sign of dementia discussed above in this article. Other symptoms include difficulty with complex tasks, poor organization skills, and trouble managing time or making plans.
But it’s not too late to turn it around. “You can still turn the progressing dementia around. If you understand how the brain works and what the brain needs, you can develop a strategy to actually reverse this,” Dr. Ekberg says.
4. Forgetting Recent Events
A person with Stage 4 symptoms of dementia demonstrates continued difficulties from Stage 3. The deficits in reasoning and memory become more prominent.
For example, in addition to forgetting a recently read paragraph, the person might have difficulty remembering something they did, such as the lunch they ate earlier in the day.
5. Impaired Calculation
Having trouble with simple math? This might be a warning sign of dementia. Dr. Ekberg gives the example of starting with 100 and continually subtracting 7. So 100-7=93, 93-7=86, 86-7=79, and so on.
While it’s normal if you’re having trouble doing the math as fast as others, people with dementia cannot do the calculations at all.
6. Difficulty Managing Finances And Tasks
Another sign of Stage 4 dementia is an inability to manage finances. This might be evident in the form of an inability to pay bills consistently and on time. Difficulties with concentration, time management, organization skills, and completing complex tasks get more obvious from Stage 3.
7. A Person Cannot Recall Basics, And They Need Outside Assistance
When a person has trouble remembering things like their address and phone number, dementia has likely progressed to Stage 5. They may also have lost track of time and location.
At this point, there is major memory decline, and everyday tasks like dressing and preparing meals are increasingly difficult without assistance.
8. They Can’t Recall Their Spouse
As dementia progresses into Stage 6, the individual might forget names and misplace the faces of close friends and family.
“One example is when they can’t recall their spouse’s name. This is where it’s becoming devastating for a couple that has known each other their entire life. All of a sudden, that person is just gone,” Dr. Ekberg explains.
9. They Get Lost And Can’t Take Care of Themselves
In Stage 6, the cognitive decline is severe, and the person has very little judgment on how to take care of themself. A high level of care is necessary to help the individual with daily living tasks such as getting dressed, feeding themselves, and going to the bathroom.
During this stage, people tend to wander and get lost. So they need to be watched constantly. They also demonstrate major personality disorder.
10. Complete Detachment
According to Dr. Ekberg, the final warning sign of someone who already has is complete detachment, which also describes the final stage on the Global Deterioration Scale.
The person has lost all ability to communicate. There is also a severe decline in basic abilities like sitting up, walking, and eating. These individuals need around-the-clock care.
“The things we usually associate with dementia and usually seen in Stages where it’s too late to do something about it,” Dr. Ekberg says. “In the very early stages, even before there is any cognitive decline, that’s when it’s time to do something.”
So, how do you prevent the onset of dementia? You can take several steps to reduce your risk of dementia, such as a healthy diet and staying mentally active. But Dr. Ekberg insists on staying physically active as a key strategy. His assertion is supported by a study published in JAMA, which found that increased physical activity in older adults reduced the risk of dementia. 
If you identify potential warning signs of dementia, don’t ignore them. The earlier you act, the better the odds of reversing or managing the condition.
 World Health Organization (WHO): https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia
 Livingston, G., Huntley, J., Sommerlad, A., Ames, D., Ballard, C., Banerjee, S., … & Mukadam, N. (2020). Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The Lancet, 396(10248), 413-446: https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)30367-6/fulltext
 National Institute on Aging (NIA): https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-is-dementia
 Alzheimer’s Association: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia
 Dementia Care Central: https://www.dementiacarecentral.com/aboutdementia/facts/Stages/
 National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/do-memory-problems-always-mean-alzheimers-disease
 Yoon, M., Yang, P. S., Jin, M. N., Yu, H. T., Kim, T. H., Jang, E., … & Joung, B. (2021). Association of physical activity level with risk of dementia in a nationwide cohort in Korea. JAMA network open, 4 (12), e2138526-e2138526: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2787226
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