Dementia symptoms: early signs may include constipation
The number of people with dementia is expected to exceed 130 million by 2050. This could bring the total number of cases in the UK to two million. Although the condition cannot be reversed, early detection of warning signs could allow for better preparation. Experts have now identified a potential new factor that could precede brain decline by up to two decades.
A new study, published in The Lancet, has identified constipation as one of the first factors to signal the onset of cognitive decline, appearing years in advance.
The link between Alzheimer’s disease and constipation became apparent seven years before the neurodegenerative disease was diagnosed.
Other conditions associated with a later diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease may include anxiety, constipation, abnormal weight loss, severe stress reaction, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and cervical spondylosis (a type of arthritis), according to the study.
Katy Bray, Ph.D, told Medical News Today, “Diseases like Alzheimer’s disease can appear in the brain for up to two decades before symptoms begin to show.
“It’s unclear how these conditions may contribute to the development of the disease or if they could also be very early symptoms.”
READ MORE: Dementia: ‘one of the first changes’ before memory loss – it may signal Alzheimer’s disease
The researchers analyzed the medical records of a cohort of over 20,000 patients with Alzheimer’s disease in the UK and over 19,000 patients with the disease in France.
Some of the above conditions had previously been recognized as risk factors for dementia; namely hearing loss, depression and sleep disturbances.
But never before has constipation been identified as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
One of the first authors of the study, Thomas Nedelec, notes: “The comparisons made allowed us to confirm known associations, such as hearing problems, or depression, and other lesser known factors or early symptoms, such as cervical spondylosis or constipation.
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“The question remains whether the health problems encountered are risk factors, symptoms or warning signs of the disease.”
The authors of the study concluded their paper with the following statement: “Our results allow the modeling of possible trajectories of risk factors in the period preceding the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, providing new information on the possible windows of prevention.”
Common causes of constipation include a lack of dietary fiber in the diet, as well as insufficient fluid intake or reduced mobility.
How to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
The risk of cognitive decline increases sharply with age, but researchers believe that certain habits could delay this cognitive deterioration.
Low-grade inflammation in the body is a key contributor to the disease, but fortunately exercise can counter that.
The training targets the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that regulates decision-making and personality.
But it also triggers the production of new brain cells in the hippocampus, increasing its volume and preserving memory.
Cognitive activities can also make a marked difference in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.