According to the Alzheimer’s Association , dementia is a term commonly used to describe a wide range of symptoms associated with a severe decline in memory and thinking skills. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of diagnosed cases of dementia. Vascular dementia—caused by a stroke—is the second most common type of dementia diagnosis. However, even vitamin deficiencies and thyroid issues may case dementia symptoms.
Symptoms of dementia vary greatly by patient. Memory loss and problems with communication, focus, judgement and visual perception are among the most commonly recognized signs. However, long before the condition advances to that level, other more subtle symptoms may be present.
Difficulty chewing hard foods may indicate an increased risk of dementia. A group of Swedish researchers discovered that older individuals who have trouble chewing hard foods are more likely to suffer from mental decline. They postulated that when you have fewer teeth (like many older individuals do) you chew less. This ends up reducing the blood flow to the brain, which increases your risk of dementia.
Difficulty walking at a steady pace may also predict dementia risk.Multiple studies suggest a correlation between walking speed and cognitive decline. In one, researchers discovered that participants’ with slower average walking speeds also had smaller hippocampal and average total brain volumes. Shrinkage of key portions of the brain is common with dementia.
Lower morning activity may indicate an increased risk of dementia. When scientists followed a group of 1,300 healthy women over the age of 75, they found 39 percent had developed mild cognitive impairment or dementia after five years. Among them, the women who were less active early in the day were 80 percent more likely than their morning-loving counterparts to fall into the impairment or dementia group.
The development of type 2 diabetes may also predict dementia risk. Australian researchers who examined data from 14 studies and more than 2 million participants found diabetes was associated with a 60 percent increased risk of dementia for both men and women. They also found that diabetic women were 19 percent more likely to develop vascular dementia—the variety common after a stroke—than were men.
Being overweight at middle age may indicate an increased risk of dementia. When a Swedish researcher analyzed data collected from 8,534 elderly twins, she discovered that those who had been overweight 30 years earlier were more likely to have dementia once they reached the age of 65.
Depression may also predict dementia risk. One study of more than 13,000 participants found that late-life depression doubles the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Their research also revealed that suffering from both mid- and late-life depression triples the risk of vascular dementia development.