There are a lot of scary diagnoses out there and most, if not all, of these conditions can happen to anyone, regardless of who you are or what you've experienced in the past. Though you likely don't live in daily fear of developing all kinds of conditions, if you have some sort of family history or experience with a given condition and know what that diagnosis can mean, the idea that you might one day be diagnosed can be a bit more unsettling, to say the least. Some of the signs you may develop dementia later in life are pretty subtle or are things that you wouldn't think could in any way be related, but are good things to know so that you can take a more proactive approach to your preventive care.
It's difficult to know if you can actually prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, as the Alzheimer's Association noted. Still, the Association's website suggested a number of potential things that you can do that may help protect your brain from developing dementia and that won't affect you in a negative way (and in fact might have a ton of other health benefits as well), such as eating a healthy diet, moving every day, ensuring that you stay socially-connected, staying mentally engaged, and more.
Because there really might be things that you can do to help keep your brain healthy long-term, these early, subtle signs of dementia are things about which you definitely need to know more.
1. Your Eye Doctor Says Your Retinas Are Thin
Though you might not think the anatomy of your eyes would have anything to do with your chances of developing dementia later on in life, your eye doctor may be able to provide some more insight than you'd expect. A team of researchers used U.K. Biobank data and found that people who had thinner retinas were, when tested a few years later, more likely to have experienced a decline in their mental faculties. Chatting with your eye doctor about any anatomical concerns each time you go in for an appointment might alert you to changes sooner.
2. You Walk Very Slowly
If you're a slow walker, that might actually be a sign of potential health issues later in life. The BBC reported that US researchers found that there might be a connection between walking slowly and developing dementia later on. The researchers noted that further experimentation is needed. Still, staying active and making healthy lifestyle change may help.
3. You're Losing Your Sense Of Smell
If your sense of smell just isn't what it used to be, that too could be an indication that you may be developing (or will develop) dementia. AARP noted that University of Pennsylvania researchers developed a test that can help determine if your sense of smell has diminished. Chatting with your doctor about any possible connections between your sense of smell and dementia could, again, help you catch these sorts of things earlier on, which could potentially enable any interventions to help you all the more.
4. You Have Certain Herpes Viruses
Herpes viruses 6A and 7 have been found to potentially be linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease. A study published in Neuron found that those with Alzheimer's had a higher prevalence of these viruses in their bodies than control groups without Alzheimer's did. These viruses are things that often affect kids. Additionally, as Health further reported, a study published in Neurotherapeutics found that those with herpes simplex 1, which is the form of the virus that can cause cold sores, had a greater likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease as well, but that taking antivirals might help. If you or your family members have these types of viruses, talking to your doctor (or theirs) might be a good idea to keep yourself safe and healthy.
5. You Forget To Pay A Lot Of Bills
Forgetting a bill's due date and having to pay late every so often isn't great, but it likely doesn't mean anything super serious about your health. If you're regularly forgetting to pay bills, however, it might mean that something is amiss. CBS News reported that financial issues that come along with paying bills or dealing with a budget can be early signs of dementia. It's not something that you should just brush off. Talking to your doctor or a qualified therapist can help.
6. You Live Somewhere That's High In Air Pollution
A study published in BMJ Open found that living in a place that's high in air pollution might be related to later dementia diagnoses. More research is likely needed, but knowing that outside factors such as pollution might actually have an effect on your likelihood of developing a condition like dementia is important to know, because you might have only thought that it would have an effect on things like respiratory health, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
7. You Rarely Get A Good Night's Sleep
If you hardly ever get a good night's sleep, there might be more at stake than just feeling fatigued the next day. A 2015 study from researchers at University of California, Berkeley found that if you're not getting quality sleep, your ability to consolidate memory might suffer.
Prioritizing your health is important, so seeing your healthcare professionals, getting enough sleep at night, eating a healthy diet, making other healthy lifestyle choices, and staying socially and mentally active are super important as well. Though these sorts of things might indicate that you're more likely to develop dementia later on, nothing is certain, so taking care of yourself and your brain is definitely still a really good idea.