Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature
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Around 55 million people have dementia, with over 60 percent living in low- and middle-income countries, according to the latest figures released by the World Health Organization. Dementia may be rife but misconceptions abound. Symptom awareness is one area where there are gaping holes in knowledge.
Many people automatically associate dementia with memory loss but this is not always the first symptom.
If you have frontotemporal dementia, memory loss is not present until later on.
That’s because frontotemporal dementia affects the front and sides of the brain: regions which govern language and behaviour.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, “changes” in your dietary preferences can signal the uncommon type of dementia.
Dietary preferences: Eats lots of sweet things can signal frontotemporal dementia (Image: Getty Images)
The health body says “changes in food likes and dislikes such as eating lots of sweet things, over-eating or drinking too much” can signal frontotemporal dementia.
Other signs include:
- Inappropriate behaviour
- Lack of interest
- Difficulties with decision making.
How to respond
The NHS says: “See a GP if you think you have early symptoms of dementia.
“If you’re worried about someone else, encourage them to make an appointment with a GP and perhaps suggest you go with them.”
As the health body explains, the GP can do some simple checks to try to find out the cause of your symptoms, and may refer you to a specialist for further tests.
“It’s usually very helpful to have someone at the consultation who knows you well and can give the specialist another perspective on your symptoms.”
Can I reduce my risk?
There’s no certain way to prevent all types of dementia, as researchers are still investigating how the condition develops.
However, there’s good evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of developing dementia when you’re older.
Dementia: A lack of interest can also signal frontotemporal dementia (Image: Getty Images)
Some dementia risk factors are difficult or impossible to change but others are modifiable.
Research shows that lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia.
And while no specific diet is known to reduce dementia risk, research indicates a greater incidence of dementia in people who eat an unhealthy diet compared with those who follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in produce, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol has long been known to cause brain changes.
Dementia: Important ways to reduce your risk (Image: Getty Images)
Several large studies and reviews found that alcohol use disorders were linked to an increased risk of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia.
What is good for the heart is also good for the brain.
With that in mind, there are a number of cardiovascular risk factors that underpin dementia.
“These include high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, buildup of fats in your artery walls (atherosclerosis) and obesity,” notes the Mayo Clinic.