If you think a foggy memory is the first warning sign of Alzheimer’s, think again.
There are other symptoms — symptoms that have nothing to do with how often you forget your keys — that can tell you a lot about your brain health (and your dementia risk) well before your memory begins to slip.
In fact, the earliest warning signs of Alzheimer’s are usually changes in your behavior, not your memory. These changes are typically chalked up to you getting older. Sometimes they’re even diagnosed as psychiatric disorders.
But until now, they weren’t recognized for what they really are…
The first signs that your brain is shrinking
These behavioral changes have just recently gotten an official name — mild behavioral impairment (MBI). MBI is a type of pre-dementia that starts in your brain years before you receive a dementia diagnosis.
But if you know the warning signs of MBI, you can be on the lookout for signs that dementia is brewing in your brain before it’s too late — because there are things you can do slow its progression, and I’ve listed them below for you. But first, here are 12 signs of MBI to keep your eyes peeled for:
- A loss of interest in your family, friends or home activities
- Being less spontaneous and active
- Viewing yourself as a burden to family and friends
- Feeling anxious about routine things
- Feeling tense, panicked and unable to relax
- Becoming more agitated, aggressive and irritable
- Developing a new habit of hoarding things
- Engaging in uncontrollable addictive behaviors like smoking, drinking, drug-using, gambling or shoplifting
- Saying more rude and crude things
- Talking about personal matters in public settings when you never did before
- Paranoid beliefs that you’re in danger, that people are trying to harm you or that people are trying to steal your belongings
- Seeing things or hearing voices
It’s easy to see how a lot of these symptoms could be mistaken for psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety or psychosis. But if you’re over 55 and you begin to notice changes in the way you’re thinking and acting, you may want to consider the possibility that you have mild behavioral impairment.
Fortunately, even if you have MBI it’s not too late to make changes and prevent full-blown Alzheimer’s from coming your way. Some of the best research-based changes you could make are:
- Changing your diet. The Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet (a hybrid between the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet) are best. This is the diet reported to make your brain almost a decade younger (and cake is still on the menu!)
- Talking on a complex job or volunteer position that involves working with people.
- Practicing brain training exercises on a regular basis — especially ones that require a quick reaction time.
- Exercising several times a week for 30 to 60 minutes. This kind of moderate exercise in older adults can improve memory function by enlarging the brain’s hippocampus regions.
“Behavior changes offer clues that dementia could be brewing.” MedicalXpress. http://medicalxpress.com. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
“Checklist of possible behavioral warning signs of dementia.” MedicalXpress. http://medicalxpress.com. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
“Alzheimer’s disease: Can exercise prevent memory loss?” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org. Retrieved July 25, 2016.