Alzheimer’s Can Affect Young People Too
June 6, 2019
While Alzheimer’s is most common in older adults, it sometimes affects young people in their 20s and 30s. This form of Alzheimer’s is known as early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Experts aren’t really sure what triggers Alzheimer’s disease in young people. Some people have the three main genes for the disease, which can be identified through genetic tests.
Others have problems with blood supply to the brain due to cardiovascular issues. This is why Alzheimer’s is commonly associated with diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s might be caused by brain damage to the lobes at the front and sides of the brain. This kind of dementia causes changes in personality and language.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s in Young People
- Memory Changes
This is a classic symptom of dementia. People with this condition struggle to keep thoughts in their head. They become forgetful, and words often escape them. However, young people tend to have atypical dementia, which does not come with the classic memory problems.
- Fear of Change
People with early
- Getting lost
People with dementia get lost more often, especially in new places. They may also find themselves needing to use a GPS to go to places where they’ve been many times before.
- Personality change
It’s totally normal to experience mood changes throughout the day but it’s not normal for someone’s personality to change drastically. Changes happening within the brain can reduce inhibitions and cause a major shift in personality.
- Suddenly making bad decisions
While indecision by itself is not a sign of dementia, it can point to a problem with executive function. Difficulties in planning, organizing, focusing and reasoning can make it challenging to complete tasks with multiple steps, like cooking or getting dressed.
- Struggling to learn new skills
Learning new skills is extremely challenging for people with dementia. The condition affects their ability to read, and they often have to be avid note takers to try keep up.
Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease
Misdiagnosis is very common in early-onset Alzheimer’s. Most people associate Alzheimer’s with memory problems, but young people are likelier to have visual, language, and behavioral problems rather than memory issues, making it difficult for doctors to diagnose the disease based on symptoms alone.
CT and MRI scans of the brain can provide a closer look at brain tissue and help to identify Alzheimer’s-related damage. Blood, urine and spinal fluid tests can also help to identify biomarkers for the disease such as the proteins that damage and kill nerve cells.
Preventing Early-Onset Alzheimer’s
There aren’t any proven strategies to prevent dementia, yet. However, there is strong evidence that a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity, a healthy diet and lifelong learning, can reduce the risk of the disease.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, like the Mediterranean diet, can prevent cardiovascular issues which can cause problems with the blood supply to the brain.
Aerobic exercise can delay the decline in cognitive function that is associated with Alzheimer’s. About 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise three to four times a week is all it takes.
When we think of health, we often focus on the physical dimension, or how good we look in our new jeans!
But by practicing these simple lifestyle habits, we can stay young in body AND mind.