Researchers claim behavioural changes that may be diagnosed as menopause or a mid-life crisis could in fact be early signs of dementia.

While many look out for the traditional signs of dementia – memory loss and confusion – researchers claim that mood swings, depression, anxiety, apathy, impulsiveness and agitation can also be early signs of the disease.

So, the mood swings that often characterise the menopause in women, could in fact be an early sign of dementia. Likewise, the anxiety, apathy and impulsiveness of depression or a ‘mid-life crisis’ could also be dementia.

However, many doctors would understandably assume that these types of symptoms might relate to other illnesses or conditions, particularly in people in their 50s and early 60s.

The study was one of the many pieces of research unveiled at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto this week.

The scientists from the University of Calgary in Canada have said that doctors need to be aware of typical symptoms of mild behavioural impairment (MBI), which may strike in people’s early 50s.

This is different to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) which produces the more obvious signs of memory issues and confusion.

They’ve created a checklist early signs or “red flags” after tracking 282 people with cognitive impairment (a precursor to dementia).

These include:
• Apathy/drive/motivation
• Mood/affect/anxiety
• Impulse control/agitation/reward
• Social appropriateness
•Thoughts/perception.

They discovered that 82% of the people they investigated had some sort of behavioural change, with mood swings affecting 78%, impulse control affecting 65%, apathy 52%, social inappropriateness 28% and psychosis 9%.

Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said:

‘The first signs of dementia are often picked up by close family and friends as changes in behaviour and personality and may be more noticeable than subtle alterations in memory.

‘Early symptoms of dementia are often missed, and because behavioural changes can be common in mid-life they can often be put down to mid-life crisis, depression or the worried well.

‘This new research may help doctors to better understand any early changes in behaviour and should allow them to consider dementia as another potential explanation.

‘However, changes in behaviour in mid-life is not uncommon and doesn’t always mean dementia.’

For more information on signs of dementia, click here.

Source: Daily Mail