10 Alarming Warning Signs You Already Have Dementia

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10 Alarming Warning Signs You Already Have Dementia
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 is diagnosed with 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. [1][2]

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 in depth.

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.” [3]

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. [4]

Other types of dementia include dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal, Huntington’s, and mixed dementia.

The Different Types Of Dementia In Greater Detail

Each type of dementia presents unique challenges and symptoms, and understanding these differences is crucial for diagnosis, management, and care planning. Here are 6 dementia types in greater detail:

1. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for an estimated 60-80% of cases. It is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over several years. Alzheimer’s is caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells. One of the proteins involved is called amyloid, deposits of which form plaques around brain cells. The other protein is tau, deposits of which form tangles within brain cells.

Key Features:

• Memory Loss: Especially affecting the recall of recent events and information.
• Cognitive Decline: Difficulty with reasoning, complex tasks, and judgment.
• Language Problems: Trouble following or joining a conversation and struggling with vocabulary.
• Disorientation: Getting lost in familiar places, losing track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time.
• Behavioral Changes: Changes in mood and personality, including apathy and depression.

2. Vascular Dementia

Vascular Dementia is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which can occur after a stroke blocks an artery in the brain, or due to narrower and less flexible blood vessels that reduce blood flow.

Key Features:

• Impaired Judgment: Unlike Alzheimer’s, memory may not be affected initially. Instead, the ability to make decisions, plan, and organize is more commonly affected.
• Physical Symptoms: Symptoms of stroke, including sudden headache, weakness, or numbness of the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body.
• Stepwise Deterioration: Symptoms often begin suddenly and progress in a ‘stepped’ way, with periods of stability followed by sudden declines.
• Attention and Speed of Thinking: Problems with concentration, attention, and thinking speed are more prominent than memory loss.

3. Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

Dementia with Lewy Bodies is characterized by abnormal protein deposits known as Lewy bodies in the brain’s nerve cells. These deposits disrupt the brain’s normal functioning, affecting cognition, behavior, and movement.

Key Features:

• Cognitive Decline: Similar to Alzheimer’s, but may have more pronounced effects on problem-solving and reasoning.
• Fluctuating Alertness: Variations in attention and alertness throughout the day.
• Visual Hallucinations: Seeing things that aren’t there, often detailed and vivid.
• Parkinsonian Motor Symptoms: Movement issues like rigidity, slow movement, and tremors, resembling Parkinson’s disease.
• Sleep Disturbances: Particularly REM sleep behavior disorder, where individuals physically act out their dreams.

4. Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

Frontotemporal Dementia is a group of disorders caused by progressive nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal lobes (the areas behind your forehead) or its temporal lobes (the regions behind your ears).

Key Features:

• Behavioral Changes: Impulsivity, apathy, inappropriate social behavior, and neglect of personal hygiene.
• Language Problems: Difficulty in speaking, understanding language, and changes in reading and writing skills.
• Emotional Blunting: Apathy or lack of empathy, which can be mistaken for depression.
• Movement Disorders: Similar to Parkinson’s or ALS, including tremor, rigidity, and muscle weakness.

5. Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s Disease is a progressive brain disorder caused by a defective gene. This disease causes changes in the central area of the brain, affecting movement, mood, and cognitive abilities.

Key Features:

• Movement Disorders: Involuntary jerking or writhing movements (chorea), muscle problems, and abnormal posture.
• Cognitive Decline: Slowness in processing thoughts, difficulty in focusing, and problems with planning and organizing.
• Psychiatric Disorders: Depression, apathy, irritability, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

6. Mixed Dementia

Mixed Dementia refers to the diagnosis of two or more types of dementia occurring simultaneously. The most common combination is Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Key Features:

• Overlapping Symptoms: Symptoms often overlap, making it difficult to distinguish one type from another.
• Cognitive Decline: Memory loss and other cognitive symptoms typical of Alzheimer’s.
• Vascular Symptoms: Symptoms related to blood flow in the brain, like those seen in vascular dementia, including difficulty with problem-solving and slowed thinking.

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.

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. [1] But how do you differentiate dementia from normal age decline?

“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. [5]

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. [6]

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 themselves. 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. [7]

Natural Foods That May Be Beneficial In Slowing Down Dementia

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats, as exemplified by the Mediterranean and DASH diets, is beneficial for cognitive health. Specific foods like berries, walnuts, leafy green vegetables, and fatty fish play a crucial role in maintaining cognitive function and may help in slowing down or preventing dementia.

1. Mediterranean Diet and Cognitive Decline: The Mediterranean diet, characterized by high consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, has been associated with decreased cognitive decline and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This diet emphasizes the intake of foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are believed to offer neuroprotective benefits. [8]

2. Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH): The DASH diet, initially developed to lower blood pressure, has also shown neuroprotective actions. It focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and limits foods high in saturated fat and sugar. The combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets has been linked to slower rates of cognitive decline and a significant reduction in the incidence of AD. [8]

3. Hawaii Dementia Prevention Trial: A study involving dietary changes and supplements aimed at slowing dementia progression in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) found that dietary interventions, including the consumption of berries, walnuts, and a reduction in dietary advanced glycation end products, were beneficial. The study also emphasized limiting saturated fatty acids to seven percent of calories. [2]

4. Vitamin and Mineral Intake: Adequate intake of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and minerals like zinc and calcium is crucial for cognitive health. The study found that deficiencies in these nutrients were more common in women and that proper nutritional treatment could aid in slowing down the progression of dementia. [10]

Specific Foods and Nutrients for Cognitive Health:

• Berries: Rich in antioxidants, berries like blueberries and strawberries have been shown to improve cognitive function and delay cognitive decline[2].
• Walnuts: High in omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are beneficial for brain health and may help in reducing the risk of cognitive decline[2].
• Leafy Green Vegetables: Vegetables like spinach and kale, high in vitamins and minerals, are essential for maintaining cognitive function.
• Fish: Fatty fish such as salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are linked to lower rates of cognitive decline.
• Whole Grains: Foods like oats and brown rice provide essential nutrients for brain health.
• Olive Oil: A key component of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is rich in healthy fats and antioxidants.


[1] World Health Organization (WHO): https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia

[2] 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

[3] National Institute on Aging (NIA): https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-is-dementia

[4] Alzheimer’s Association: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia

[5] Dementia Care Central: https://www.dementiacarecentral.com/aboutdementia/facts/Stages/

[6] National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/do-memory-problems-always-mean-alzheimers-disease

[7] 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

[8] “Nutritional prevention of cognitive decline and dementia” – [Ligia J. Dominguez, Mario Barbagallo, 2018] https://dx.doi.org/10.23750/abm.v89i2.7401

[9] “Hawaii Dementia Prevention Trial: A Randomized Trial Evaluating a Multifaceted Nutritional Intervention to Slow Cognitive Decline in Mild Cognitive Impairment Patients” – [Steve Blake et al., 2018] https://dx.doi.org/10.18488/JOURNAL.83.2018.21.1.12

[10] “What Could Aid in Slowing Down Cognitive Function?” – [Azad Ilhan, Murat Varlı, Pelin Bilgiç, 2021] https://dx.doi.org/10.21802/GMJ.2021.2.4

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