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Sure Signs You've Got "Early Alzheimer's"

The most prevalent type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. And it is a neurodegenerative disease that negatively affects memory and other cognitive function, before advancing to the point where it interferes with everyday operations. Alzheimer's disease typically affects older adults above the age of 65, but it sometimes affects younger people in their 30s and 40s as well. When this happens it is known as early onset Alzheimer's disease (a.k.a. early Alzheimer's). Early Alzheimer's affects a relatively tiny percentage of people and the people are usually in their 40s and 50s when the disease gains ground. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Karen Sullivan, a certified clinical neuropsychologist who shares the warning signs to look out for when developing early Alzheimer's. Read on to find out the telltale signs that show that you or your loved one may be developing early Alzheimer's.


You Are Losing Interest in Things You Used to Enjoy

Woman comforting anxious husband

According to Dr. Sullivan, "Recent research suggests that the earliest and most common outward sign of Alzheimer's disease is apathy or a loss of motivation for the things a person used to enjoy. These symptoms are often mistaken for depression or a part of normal aging. While some symptoms of apathy and depression overlap – like withdrawing from family and friends and reduced initiation – people with brain-based apathy do not express the symptoms more associated with depression, like feeling guilty, hopeless, or sad."


You Don't Think There is a Problem

Grey haired senior male seats on couch in living room.

Dr. Sullivan explains that "a characteristic symptom of early Alzheimer's disease is called anosognosia. This is a brain-based inability to have insight or awareness about cognitive changes that are happening. This is often mistaken for psychological defensiveness, where family members think their loved one is resistant to admitting cognitive changes or is in denial that they have a memory problem."


You are Forgetting Whole Experiences

senior woman with adult daughter at home.

Dr. Sullivan revealed that "struggling with rapid recall can be a part of normal aging but failing to recall an event with cueing and prompting may be a sign of what brain health providers call an amnestic memory – the tell-tale memory deficit of Alzheimer's disease. Amnestic memory symptoms also show up in people asking repetitive questions or telling the same stories in a short time frame."


You are Messing up your Finances

Surprised senior mature woman counting bills at home.

According to Dr. Sullivan, "a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease goes beyond just a decline in memory. In addition to cognitive change, neuropsychologists also assess an area of function called instrumental activities of daily living. This is our ability to conduct the business of everyday life independently and without assistance. These activities include things like driving and remembering to take our daily medication. But the first and most sensitive area affected is managing complex finances. The earliest financial changes in Alzheimer's include paying the wrong bill, new difficulty balancing a checkbook, and resetting passwords numerous times."


You Have Vision Changes That Aren't Improved by Glasses

Mature woman takes off her glasses and massages eyes.

Dr. Sullivan shares, "early vision changes are some of the most underappreciated symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease. These do not happen in acuity (i.e., the ability to see objects clearly). Rather, these changes manifest in contrast sensitivity (the ability to perceive sharp and clear edges of objects) and specific color perception mainly in the blue hues. People with early Alzheimer's disease will often ask for an updated prescription for their glasses, but this doesn't solve the problem."


You Have a Strong Family History of Dementia With an Early Age of Onset

Mother and her adult daughter hugging in cafe

Dr. Sullivan revealed that "most people with Alzheimer's disease develop the condition through a complex interaction of genetic and lifestyle risk factors. The younger people are when they develop the symptoms of dementia, the more likely it is to be genetic. If you have someone in your family that developed symptoms of Alzheimer's disease under the age of 65, you are at a higher risk."

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