It is important to look out for your body as you age. Taking steps to keep fit and healthy might help you stay productive once you reach your retirement years and possibly stave off any later-life health problems.
Yet, taking care of your body is only half the battle. There are many cognitive conditions that may affect you in later life, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) currently affects roughly 900,000 people in the UK. Meanwhile, the NHS reports that roughly 1 in 11 Brits over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with dementia.
As life expectancy continues to rise, so do cases of dementia, with forecasts projecting 1.6 million Brits will be affected by 2040.
Read on to learn how to watch out for early symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and steps you can take to reduce the possibility of a diagnosis or slow the diseases’ progress.
There are 10 major signs you should watch out for in your day-to-day life
Research from University College London found that 9 out of 10 Brits underestimate the effects of dementia. The study discovered that 94% didn’t know that dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK and 58% didn’t know that dementia is a terminal illness.
Dementia is a life-changing diagnosis, so detecting it early and taking steps to slow its progress with early intervention could benefit you and your loved ones.
According to the Guardian, it is possible to spot signs of dementia as early as nine years before an official diagnosis is made.
It is important to understand the difference between natural signs of ageing and dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association lists 10 key symptoms and signs to be aware of, such as:
- Memory loss that disrupts your daily life, such as having issues with your short-term memory and retaining new information
- Increased difficulty dealing with problem-solving and numerical tasks
- Struggles with completing familiar or routine tasks
- Confusion with the time or date, as well as where you are or how you ended up there
- Difficulty comprehending visual imagery and spatial relationships
- Loss of vocabulary leading to problems maintaining a conversation or writing
- Regular issues with misplacing items and being unable to retrace your steps
- Impaired judgement leading to risky decisions on a regular basis
- Withdrawing from day-to-day life and avoiding work, hobbies, and social engagements
- Sharp changes in your mood or personality.
Any of these 10 symptoms could easily be confused with typical signs of ageing. The vital difference to remember is frequency. If these problems persist and increase in regularity, it might be an early sign of dementia.
Age, family history, and vascular issues could increase your risk of dementia
According to Healthline, the most common risk factors for dementia include:
- Your age, with the majority of people diagnosed being over the age of 65
- Your sex and gender, as women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease while men have a higher risk of developing other forms of dementia
- Your family medical history
- Vascular issues, arising from high blood pressure, heart disease, smoking, or diabetes
- Vitamin deficiencies, particularly Vitamin D.
While you can’t change your biology or stop the process of ageing, you could take steps to improve your vascular health and diet, which could reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Improving your diet and regularly exercising could reduce the risk of dementia or slow its progress
Improving your diet and regularly exercising are two potential ways you could help reduce your risk of dementia or slow its progress.
The MIND diet combines a typical Mediterranean diet with additional steps to help reduce high blood pressure and largely consists of:
- A healthy intake of leafy greens, wholegrains, nuts, and fruit high in antioxidants
- A moderate amount of fish and dairy products
- Minimal amounts of red meats, butter, salt, and fried foods.
The British Heart Foundation reports that participants in an almost five-year study that stuck to the diet closely had brains that were the equivalent of 7.5 years younger than those who had followed the diet the least.
Exercising your mind and body could be just as useful. The old adage “use it or lose it” is particularly apt when discussing the benefits of exercise in the fight against dementia.
Regular physical exercise could help reduce the risk of vascular issues, which in turn may reduce the risk of dementia.
Meanwhile, brain training by using games or apps integrated into your daily routine, such as sudoku or doing a crossword, might help keep your mind fit and active.
A diagnosis is likely to affect your loved ones, so it might be worth taking steps to help them
It is important to remember that you might not be the only one affected by a dementia diagnosis. It could have a significant affect on your loved ones’ emotional and financial wellbeing.
The Guardian reports that the situation surrounding families caring for loved ones with dementia in the UK is reaching a crisis point.
More than 700,000 people in the UK currently care for loved ones with dementia and face challenges with limited public care options and prohibitive private care expenses.
According to Which?, the average costs of private care can be considerable, as shown by the table below:
While the financial cost is evident, the emotional toll is harder to show but is likely to be significant.
So, taking steps while you’re still healthy and mentally active could provide your loved ones with a welcome boost. These could include:
- Arranging protection that could provide financial support if you’re diagnosed with a critical illness
- Making a will and setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to ensure decisions can be made on your behalf if you end up with a diminished capacity
- Leaving video messages or letters to your loved ones to ensure nothing is left unsaid
- Spending time with your friends and family forming as many new positive memories as possible.
There is hope on the horizon with new medications and treatments, such as the drug donanemab, showing positive signs of being able to treat the conditions. One day, dementia itself could be a distant memory.
Get in touch
If you need help with the steps involved with sorting protection, organising your estate, or funding later life healthcare costs it might be worth speaking to a financial planner.
A good first step could be to reach out to us by email at email@example.com or by calling 0117 9303510.
This article is no substitute for financial advice and should not be treated as such. To determine the best course of action for your individual circumstances, please contact us.