Look out for these 10 subtle early signs of Alzheimer's and catch it early so you can prevent or slow its devastation...

We all associate Alzheimer's with memory loss. But that's not the only way this disease disrupts your life. Alzheimer's is a disease of the brain so it affects all brain functions. It causes a gradual decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.

Here are 10 early warning signs you may be at risk for Alzheimer's. It's important to recognise new symptoms as well as an increase in any of these symptoms…  

1.   Memory Loss
Forgetting new information is one of the most common early signs of dementia. Failing to remember important events and asking for the same information over and over are also common symptoms of early stage Alzheimer's disease.

2.   Difficulty performing familiar tasks
Finding it hard to plan or do normal everyday tasks. Sufferers may lose track of the steps involved in preparing a meal, making a telephone call or playing a game.

3.   New problems with writing or speaking
Forgetting simple words or substituting unusual words makes their speech or writing hard to understand. For example, they may be unable to find their toothbrush and ask for 'that thing for my mouth' instead.

4.   Confusion with time and places
Getting lost in their own neighbourhood, forgetting where they are and how they got there and not knowing how to get back home.

5.   Poor or decreased judgment
Dressing inappropriately like wearing several layers on a warm day or little clothing in the cold, for example. Or giving away large sums of money to telemarketers.

6.   Problems with abstract thinking
Having unusual difficulty performing complex mental tasks, like forgetting what numbers are for and how they should be used.

7.   Misplacing things and not being able to retrace steps
Putting things in unusual places, for example, putting an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.

8.   Changes in mood or Behaviour
Experiencing rapid mood swings – from calm to tears to anger and aggression – for no apparent reason. They may become extremely confused, anxious, suspicious or dependent on a family member.

9.   Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
Difficulty reading, judging distance and determining colour or contrast. These symptoms may cause problems with driving.

10.  Withdrawing from social activities
A person with early stage Alzheimer's disease may avoid being social because of the changes they're experiencing. They may remove themselves from sports, social events and hobbies. They may become passive: Sitting in front of the TV for hours, sleeping more than usual or not wanting to perform daily living activities. 
If you or a loved one experience an increase in one or more of these symptoms, see your doctor to rule out any other possible causes, like a vitamin deficiency for instance. The good news is, if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the earlier you catch it, the better your chances for slowing its progression.

Here's another simple test you can do to figure out if it's Alzheimer's or just normal age-related changes you or a loved one is experiencing…

  Symptoms of someone with Alzheimer's disease Symptoms of someone with normal age-related memory changes
Forgets entire experiences Forgets part of an experience
Rarely remembers later Often remembers later
Is gradually unable to follow written/spoken directions Is usually able to follow written/spoken directions
Is gradually unable to use notes as reminders Is usually able to use notes as reminders
Is gradually unable to care for self Is usually able to care for self


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