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What Early Health Conditions May Lead to Dementia?

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Some health conditions associated with dementia appeared early and consistently long before diagnosis, while others became significant much later, a cohort study suggested.

Research recently done suggests what early health conditions may lead to dementia later in life. For those who receive a subsequent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, the earliest and most consistent signs over a 15-year span included depression, erectile dysfunction, gait abnormalities, hearing loss and nervous and musculoskeletal symptoms, reported Lori Beason-Held, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore. Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law has reported in earlier blogs how loss of senses like hearing and vision can increase dementia risk, but a few of these newly reported signs surprise us.

MedPage Today’s recent article entitled “Earlier Health Conditions Tied to Subsequent Dementia” explains that, for those eventually diagnosed with vascular dementia, the earliest and most consistent associations across 13 years were an abnormal electrocardiogram (EKG), cardiac dysrhythmias, cerebrovascular disease, non-epithelial skin cancer, depression, and hearing loss, the researchers reported in Annals of Neurology.

“While hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, and depression are most commonly associated with dementia in the literature, there is some variability in the health conditions linked to dementia,” Beason-Held and colleagues wrote. “The timing of the onset of these health conditions may also be especially important, but less is known about the years immediately preceding dementia diagnosis.”

“It is critical that we understand the connection between physical and cognitive health as our aging population continues to grow,” the researchers added. “Our results reinforce the need for medical intervention and treatment to lessen the impact of health conditions that occur with age, which could potentially reduce the risk of future dementia in our older patients.”

Dr. Beason-Held and co-authors reviewed medical records of participants in the ongoing Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA). They evaluated data for 347 people with Alzheimer’s disease, 76 people with vascular dementia, and 811 control participants without dementia; participants had a mean age of 80 at diagnosis. They found that health conditions associated with subsequent Alzheimer’s disease dementia most commonly were hearing loss (39% of participants), urinary incontinence (23%), and depression (11%). Cardiomegaly, urinary incontinence, non-epithelial skin cancer and pneumonia were not significant until one year before Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

People subsequently diagnosed with vascular dementia most commonly experienced hearing loss (49% of participants), abnormal EKG (41%), cardiac dysrhythmias (37%) and atrial fibrillation (30%). However, atrial fibrillation, cerebral artery occlusion, essential tremor and abnormal reflexes were not significant until a year before vascular dementia diagnosis.

Beck, Lenox & Stolzer advocates people being proactive with their health and to clearly communicate issues to their physician, even if it seems minor.  Proactive measures can prevent or greatly delay what early health conditions may lead to dementia.

Reference: MedPage Today (Jan. 5, 2023) “Earlier Health Conditions Tied to Subsequent Dementia”

 

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