THE occasional moment of light-headedness is usually nothing to worry about, but a new study suggests people in middle-age who frequently suffer from dizzy spells (known as orthostatic, or postural, hypotension) are 40% more likely to develop dementia later on in their lives.
The study of 11,000 people, by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US, found that sudden drops in blood pressure — which can cause dizziness — can lead to permanent damage to the brain.
In Ireland, there are currently around 55,000 people living with dementia. Each year, more than 4,000 Irish people develop it, which works out at roughly 11 people a day
While dizziness, per se, is not generally considered a symptom of dementia, if you’re concerned about yourself, or that a loved one might be experiencing possible signs of dementia, talk to your GP for advice.
Unsure what the symptoms are? Here are some common early signs of dementia to be aware of...
Has someone asked you the same question several times during one conversation? Or told you the same biographical detail every time you’ve met? Or have they begun to repeat daily tasks unnecessarily, like making the bed or brushing their teeth? They could be showing signs of dementia.
Losing your sense of direction and spatial awareness is common in dementia patients, who often end up being unable to recognise landmarks, and things like the way home, or which house they live in.
Feeling apathetic about spending time with the people you love, or hobbies and activities that you’ve always been interested in doing, can indicate the onset of dementia.
Being able to vividly remember events from decades ago, but struggling to remember what you had for lunch, can be an early sign of dementia. As can regularly forgetting why you entered a room, or where you left your keys (although these are not sure-fire signs of dementia - we all lose our keys from time to time).
If someone is struggling to follow the plot of a programme they usually enjoy, or can’t recognise how a film has been developing, they may be exhibiting dementia-like symptoms.
Showing signs of confusion — from forgetting faces and names of people you know well, to regularly misplacing things — may indicate the early stages of dementia. Communication issues are also a key problem, so a potential sufferer could find it difficult to think of the right word to use in a sentence, or are unable to verbally express how they are feeling or thinking, which can be very frustrating.
Dementia can affect a person’s ability to judge a situation, so someone who might usually be considered a wallflower, may suddenly start behaving in a much more outgoing, in-your-face way, while depression can also be a key early sign of the condition.