Dementia mostly affects people over 65, and there are four common types – Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
These different types of dementia can affect people differently, but there are six common early signs to watch out for.
These are memory loss, difficulty concentrating, finding hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word, being confused about time and place and mood changes.
But how is the disease diagnosed? The first step, according to the NHS, is to recognise the symptoms and go see your GP.
The health body explains: “Your GP will ask about your symptoms and other aspects of your health, and will give you a physical examination.
“If possible, someone who knows you well should be with you as they can help described any changes or problems they’ve noticed.
“They may also be able to help you remember what was said at the appointment if this is difficult for you.
“Memory problems don’t necessarily mean you have dementia. These problems can also be caused by other factors, such as depression and anxiety, delirium, thyroid problems and side effects of medication.”
Your GP will also organise blood tests to rule out other causes of memory problems.
You may also be asked to do a memory or cognitive test to measure any problems with your memory.
But can dementia be prevented in the first place? Alzheimer’s Society outlines a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing the neurodegenerative disease.
Keep physically active
At least 30 minutes, five times a week is the recommended.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “You’ll need to be active enough to raise your heart rate and get a bit out of breath. You could walk, cycle, swim or join an exercise or dance group. Regular physical exercise in middle-aged or older adults reduces the risk of developing dementia. It’s also good for your heart and mental wellbeing. Exercise like this brings health benefits even if you’re not losing weight.”
If you already do this, try and stop.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “By smoking you are at a greater risk of developing dementia and harming your lungs, heart and circulation. If you want to stop smoking, talk to your GP.”
Eat a healthy balanced diet
A balanced diet has a number of health benefits including reducing your risk of dementia and heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “A healthy diet has a high proportion of oily fish, fruit, vegetables, unrefined cereals and olive oil, and low levels of red meat and sugar.
“Try to cut down on saturated fat (e.g cakes, biscuits, most cheeses) and limit sugary treats. Keep an eye on your salt intake too, because salt raises your blood pressure and risk of stroke. Read food labels to see what’s in them and seek out healthier options.”
Keep your alcohol within recommend limits
The maximum is 14 unites each week for men and women, spread over three or more days. This is the equivalent of four or five large glasses of wine, or seven pits of beer or lager with a lower alcohol content.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “Regularly exceeding these weekly limits increases your dementia risk. If you find yourself struggling to cut down what you drink, talk to your GP about what support is available.”
Take control of your health
If you’re invited for a regular mid-life health check at the doctor’s always go.
Alzheimer’s Society says: “It’s like an ‘MOT’ for your body and will include a check of your blood pressure, weight and maybe cholesterol level. These are linked to dementia and conditions that are strong risk factors for dementia (heart disease, stroke and diabetes).”