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Dementia: An Early Warning Symptom That Affects Almost Half of Patients




Dementia Alzheimer’s disease: Many people aren’t concerned when an octogenarian forgets how to get to a favorite store, forgets a friend’s name, or dent’s their car while parallel parking in a crowded city street. With age, even healthy brains work less efficiently, and memory, sensory perceptions, and physical abilities decline.

But what if the person is not in their 80s, but in their 30s, 40s, or 50s, and forgets how to get home from their own street corner? What then? There are 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, but some 200,000 are younger than 65 and develop serious memory and thinking problems much earlier in life than expected.


According to a Dutch study, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of young-onset dementia. Early-onset Alzheimer’s, however, was less likely to explain symptoms before the age of 50 compared to two other causes: vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.

Vascular dementia develops when blood vessels in the brain become blocked or injured, interfering with circulation and depriving the brain of oxygen and nutrients. As well as memory problems, its symptoms may include confusion, difficulty concentrating, trouble organizing thoughts or tasks, and slowed thinking.

Apathy isn’t the only symptom of dementia; some other signs include problems with:

  • Memory loss
  • Speed of thinking
  • Mental sharpness and quickness
  • Language or trouble speaking
  • Understanding
  • Judgment
  • Mood
  • Movement
  • Difficulties doing daily activities.

Dr. Knopman said a detailed medical history is important when diagnosing young-onset dementia. Doctors may fail to mention telltale symptoms like violent dreams if they don’t ask the right questions.

According to him, a comprehensive cognitive assessment of a person’s memory and language difficulties is crucial. The person stumbles over words or says “white” when he means “black”? A neuropsychological test can detect subtle difficulties with memory, vision, cognition, and executive function.

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