Signs and Symptoms of Cognitive Decline
The term “cognitive decline” encompasses a wide spectrum of neurological statuses.
For example, on one end lives mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that can become more commonplace as we age. Individuals living with this early stage of memory or cognitive ability loss may experience an increased risk of developing a more severe condition—such as the many forms of dementia. But others who express symptoms of MCI may never decline further. Some even see improvements in their cognitive health.
What Are the Indications of MCI?
Symptoms of MCI often include:
- Increased forgetfulness. You may take longer to recall someone’s name, miss an important date such as a close friend’s birthday, or blank on a scheduled appointment.
- Interrupted train of thought. This often occurs during conversations or when engaging with entertainment (movies, television, books). You may find yourself rereading the same paragraph two, three, or more times.
- Decision-making stress. Becoming overwhelmed at the thought of making a decision, whether major or insignificant in nature, can be an indication of MCI.
- Confusion in the day-to-day. Many people with MCI start to feel uncertain about “next steps” or understanding instructions.
- Trouble navigating familiar environments. Getting lost on a familiar or frequently traveled route might indicate MCI is present.
- Impulsivity. Acting without thinking things through or expressing poor judgment in certain situations may also be a sign of MCI
- Mental health challenges. Individuals with MCI may present with depression, anxiety, apathy, irritability, or aggression.
A Word About Subjective Cognitive Decline
A person’s family members or friends might be the first to pick up on these symptoms, but in many cases individuals themselves recognize something isn’t quite right with their cognitive capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines subjective cognitive decline as self-reported confusion or memory issues that have been occurring more frequently or getting worse over the span of a year.
The CDC also notes:
- Overall, the prevalence of Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD) is 11.1% among Americans (1 in 9 individuals).
- Prevalence is lower among individuals with more years of formal education.
- Nearly 30% of adults with SCD live alone.
- More than two-thirds (66.2%) of adults with SCD have two or more chronic diseases.
- 6% of adults with SCD experienced functional difficulties while performing day-to-day activities or chores.
Given this data, the CDC states SCD is a “growing public health issue.”
Signs and Symptoms of More Severe Cognitive Decline
While MCI may stabilize or improve with intervention, symptoms of MCI could also be the beginning of more severe cognitive decline to come. Many signs of worsening cognitive decline mimic those of MCI—just at more intense levels.
- Confusion becomes much more pronounced. Some people begin to lose track of time or are unsure what day/date it is.
- Making decisions becomes even more difficult, which can lead to frustration and anger towards others.
- Memory loss deepens, with many more instances of forgetting names, dates, places, and events.
- Individuals may be found wandering for unknown reasons, or placing items in odd locations (e.g. car keys in the freezer).
- People tend to have trouble conversing, possibly due to diminished concentration and train of thought.
These factors may contribute to increased social withdrawal. Many people with cognitive decline or dementia understand they’re developing characteristics they may be embarrassed about, or that others find undesirable, and withdraw from others as a result. In other instances, depression or anxiety may keep them from interacting with others like they used to.
Unfortunately, social isolation leads to an entirely new set of concerns. Isolated individuals are more at risk for poor health outcomes, self-neglect, and fall-related injuries.
Lesser-Known Signs of Cognitive Decline
When thinking about cognitive decline and dementia, people are often aware of the above symptoms (memory, confusion, etc.). But some lesser-known signs of cognitive decline include:
- Changes in sense of smell. A study published in the journal Neurology found that people who could no longer tell the difference between two very opposite odors (e.g. lemons and gasoline) may be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Trouble with the law. If dementia is impacting areas of the brain that control judgment, self-control, violence, and sexual behavior, individuals may find themselves in criminal situations, such as theft, trespassing, or even assault.
- Altered sleep patterns. Many people with dementia develop sleep issues such as insomnia, hypersomnia (sleeping too much), or sleeping during the day. This may be due to changes in the body’s circadian rhythm.
- Changes in walking. Slower walking or changes in stride length/gait might indicate dementia-related shifts in the brain.
Just because someone exhibits one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean cognitive decline is present. Yet, it’s important to be aware of any mental, emotional, or physical alterations you or a loved one is experiencing.
What Can Be Done About Cognitive Decline?
By the time individuals recognize cognitive decline symptoms, changes in the brain have already taken hold. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily dictate one’s decline into dementia. Depending on the severity of cognitive impairment—as mentioned in respect to MCI—people may be able to improve, interrupt, or slow the decline.
This is one of the primary goals of the Aviv Medical Program. Our robust team of expert clinicians work with clients to optimize their cognitive health as well as their physical performance. Aviv Clinics’ multidisciplinary team of healthcare specialists create a medical program fully personalized for each client’s individual needs, allowing individuals to maximize their cognition, vitality, and quality of life.
Using a combination of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), physical training, cognitive training, and nutritional coaching, the program hits all aspects of one’s overall brain and body health. Clients benefit from this holistic approach, many reporting marked improvements in thinking, attention, memory, concentration, and problem solving.
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above signs of cognitive decline, the Aviv Medical Program is an important next step. Contact us to learn more about the program and its benefits.