The ‘silent’ symptom of dementia you can spot when you walk

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NEARLY one million people in the UK are living with dementia.

And with an aging population, it’s likely that number will continue to grow, as getting older is the biggest risk factor in developing the brain robbing condition.

Walking patterns change before memory and recognition problems become apparent.


Walking patterns change before memory and recognition problems become apparent.Credit: Getty

It’s one of the leading causes of death globally, with dementia being painful for the sufferer and those around them.

Until scientists discover a cure, having ways to diagnose the condition as early as possible gives people the best chance of managing the disease and alleviating symptoms.

Earlier diagnosis can also give them and their families more time to understand their diagnosis and plan for the future.

A growing body of evidence has shown that walking patterns change before memory and recognition problems become apparent.

This is because dementia kills of brain cells which can affect things that was take for granted – like walking.

People who have dementia tend to have a shorted arm swing while they walk, experts at the Mayo Clinic found.

The study, published Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease also found people with the disease were likely to have shorter strides, they said.

Other signs include:

1. Short term memory loss

A typical sign of dementia is experiencing short term memory loss.

This can lead to misplacing essential items such as keys or forgetting what you had for breakfast that morning.

2. Mood swings

A significant shift in mood or character is an early sign of dementia.

This is a change that sufferers are often unable to detect in themselves, but is an indicator that family members can usually pick up on.

As dementia affects judgement and self-awareness, how an individual thinks they are acting or how they see themselves is less of a consideration.

Apathy, in this sense, is another change to look out for.

3. Loss of interest

Another early sign of dementia is a general loss of interest in day-to-day activities and hobbies that were previously enjoyed.

This is often because dementia affects thought and memory and so the individual may not even consider partaking in the hobby, simply because the thought to do it is no longer there.

4. Lack of focus

Feeling disorientated is another early sign of the condition.

Lacking focus and feeling out of sorts can sometimes be a sign of ageing, but it is important to be mindful of how this affects day-to-day activities.

If disorientation occurs frequently and begins to cause distress, it is likely to be a sign of dementia and may be worth consulting a medical professional.

5. Rash decisions

Situations where quick decisions are second nature, can become a struggle for those suffering from dementia.

Any unusual, rash actions that are out of character and are a potential cause for concern are typical for those with dementia.

An example of this would be deciding to take essential belongings to a charity shop or wearing clothing that is inappropriate for the weather.

Poor judgement also encompasses spatial awareness, and therefore clumsiness.

6. Losing sense of direction

If a loved one suddenly struggles to remember familiar routes, this could be a cause for concern.

Forgetting simple directions or routes to familiar places is a common symptom of dementia and should be monitored, as it can often lead to sufferers getting lost or ending up in dangerous places.

7. Getting confused

Another sign of dementia is difficulty in communicating thoughts and emotions.

Someone with dementia may get confused with wording and struggle to express their point of view naturally, as a result of dementia affecting communication and language.

Skills such as word formation and memory are slowly affected over time and should be discussed with a medical professional if symptoms start to worsen.

8. Familiar tasks becoming challenging

Simple and familiar tasks like making a cup of tea or locking a door can become challenging for those suffering from dementia as brain function and cognitive activity start to deteriorate.

This can occur suddenly or over time and leads to simple tasks or basic routines unexpectedly requiring a lot of thought and energy.

The risk of dementia can accumulate over a lifetime and is partly driven by genetics, which are not possible to change.

Do I have dementia?

Experts have devised a simple test that could be used to spot dementia nearly a decade before doctors notice symptoms.

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Cambridge University experts say simple tests which test basic memory could be used to screen people and start treatment earlier.

Both tests rely on subtle differences that could easily be missed.

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