Dementia symptoms: The lesser-known warning sign found in the way you speak

Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature

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Dementia is a devastating disease that affects the brain and causes a range of physical and mental symptoms. With 200 recognised subtypes of dementia, more than 850,000 people in the UK are estimated to live with one form of the condition. Your language or speech could indicate your risk.

Do you ever find yourself tongue-tied and struggling to find the right word for something – you know the what-do-you-call-it?

It happens to everyone from time to time: a piece of vocabulary just vanishes from our minds, but for those with dementia it can happen increasingly often.

Dementia can affect the part of the brain controlling language and can make communication more difficult.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, a person in the early stages of vascular dementia may also have difficulties with:

Memory – problems recalling recent events (often mild)

Language – e.g., speech may become less fluent

Visuospatial skills – problems perceiving objects in three dimensions.

Forgetting words for things can be an early symptom of frontotemporal dementia, a rarer form of dementia accounting for two percent of dementia diagnoses in the UK.

A person with dementia may start to forget pieces of vocabulary, and compensate by using words they do remember.

For example, a watch could become a “hand-clock”, a television a “picture-box” or your gloves, your “hand-shoes”.

If you find yourself often unable to remember the right words, or struggling to find any words at all, or you’ve noticed a relative losing their grasp on vocabulary, it might be time to talk to a doctor.

Other early symptoms may include:

  • Confusion
  • Reduced concentration
  • Personality or behaviour changes
  • Apathy and withdrawal or depression
  • Loss of ability to do everyday tasks.

As with the symptoms, there is no one cause for all types of dementia and no complete scientific understanding that would facilitate the development of preventative treatments. 

Race Against Dementia recommends that living in an area with high levels of air pollution, such as large cities, or an area where you are socially isolated will increase your risk. 

Despite these risk factors, the positive message to get across is that these are all factors that, for the most part, are in your control and, even if you’re in midlife, you still have time to change and adapt.

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