8 Ways To Spot Dementia 9 Years Before A Medical Diagnosis
Early intervention can make a world of difference in slowing the progression of cognitive decline in neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. Unfortunately, early signs of dementia can be elusive—especially in sporadic dementia changes. You see, changes in brain structure and neuroimaging can be detectable 10 to 25 years before symptom onset of genetic dementia patients (i.e., those with a gene mutation linked to dementia risk).
Sporadic dementia cases aren't as easy to assess, but a 2022 Alzheimer's & Dementia review outlines eight early signs of dementia that can become apparent up to nine years before a medical diagnosis.
8 pre-diagnostic signs of dementia
In the review, researchers analyzed data from the U.K. Biobank cohort study, which follows 50,000 individuals of the general population between the ages of 40 and 69, to look for early manifestations of neurodegenerative diseases—including Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia, and Lewy body dementia (aka dementia with Lewy bodies).
They found several early signs of cognitive and functional changes common in these three types of dementia. It's worth noting that these pre-diagnostic signs were strongest in Alzheimer's patients but detected in frontotemporal and Lewy body dementia patients as well.
Catching these signs can initiate early intervention in sporadic dementia cases, helping to slow the progression of these debilitating diseases.
1. Fluid intelligence: The ability to solve problems in a creative way using logic and reason worsens (e.g., completing puzzles, solving a murder mystery, finding another way home when your regular route is blocked).
2. Reaction time: Response to a stimulant slows down (e.g., reacting to oncoming traffic, burning food, or an incoming phone call).
3. Numeric memory: The ability to use working memory to hold and calculate numbers worsens (e.g., ingredient measurements, simple math equations).
4. Prospective memory: The ability to recall information worsens (e.g., forgetting where you left your keys, doctor appointments, or a recent event).
5. Visual memory: The ability to recall visual information worsens (e.g., a familiar face like your neighbor's or place like your local grocery store).
(Note: These pre-diagnostic impairments in day-to-day functions were only found in Alzheimer's disease patients.)
6. Increased number of falls
7. Decreased grip strength
8. Increased tendency toward weight loss
How to promote cognitive longevity
No matter your age, genetics, or baseline cognitive health, there are many lifestyle habits you can incorporate into your everyday routine to help promote brain longevity.
Visit your doctor regularly to monitor changes in your cognitive function.
- Take a high-quality memory supplement with science-backed ingredients (like citicoline—a nootropic bioactive that's been clinically shown to improve cognitive impairment).
- Get sufficient amounts of deep, restful sleep.
- Maintain a healthy body composition, blood pressure & blood sugar levels.
- Eat a balanced diet full of brain-healthy foods.
- Stay physically and socially active.
- Avoid these modifiable risk factors of dementia.
- Smoke cigarettes
- Overindulge in alcoholic beverages
When you know what to look for, you can spot early signs of dementia almost a decade before a medical diagnosis. If you think you or your loved one may be experiencing significant cognitive changes (and want to see if they're considered a "normal" and healthy part of aging or cause for concern), check out these 12 additional signs of cognitive decline.
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.