Long before dementia’s ravaging effects on the brain become painfully obvious, there are very subtle signs that this devastating condition is starting to take hold. Some people automatically assume dementia is on the horizon as a loved one starts to display forgetfulness, but one sign that few people are aware of is a change in humor.
A study that was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that a change in the type of humor a person prefers can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. The friends and relatives of people with dementia reported noting such a shift as many as nine years before the memory problems more typically associated with the illness started to occur.
Switching from a preference for absurdist or satirical comedy to slapstick humor could serve as an early indication of dementia. One of the strongest changes was found in those with frontotemporal dementia, which is the most common dementia cause in people under the age of 55. It affects the parts of the brain associated with behavior and personality, and sufferers tend to become more impulsive and uninhibited and have trouble in social situations. Patients suffering from this form of dementia were observed by loved ones laughing inappropriately at events long before being officially diagnosed. Some reported laughing at a barking dog, a car that was parked badly, natural disasters, or even a spouse accidentally burning herself.
The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Camilla Clark, pointed out that humor is a good way to detect dementia because of the many different aspects of brain function it involves, including emotions, social awareness, and even puzzle solving.
Understanding the earliest signs of dementia can help lead to better diagnosis and improved outcomes for sufferers. It can also help to identify people for clinical trials in order to test out new interventions.
Last year, dementia overtook heart disease as the leading cause of death in England and Wales, with the illness responsible for nearly 12 percent of all recorded deaths. With the Alzheimer’s Association reporting that more than 5 million Americans live with the disease and that someone develops it every 66 seconds, the need for early diagnosis and better treatment is becoming more urgent.
Preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
With such lousy statistics, it’s normal to worry that you or your loved ones will end up suffering from dementia. Perhaps someone you know has already started showing some of the early signs. The good news is that living a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Regular exercise can cut your risk of developing the condition in half. It is believed to defend your brain against the onset of the disease by stimulating brain activity, which slows down mental deterioration.
A healthy diet is also vital for preventing this disease. The Mediterranean diet, which is rich in beans, fish, vegetables, and healthy fats, has been shown to significantly decrease one’s risk of getting the disease. In one study carried out by the Columbia University Medical Center, the participants who adhered to the Mediterranean diet the most closely were 28 percent less likely to end up developing borderline dementia than those who did not adhere to the diet.
Turmeric is also believed to be useful for maintaining brain health. It’s interesting to note that in India, where many dishes feature this fragrant spice, the rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s are among the lowest in the world. A study found that it blocks the formation of the beta-amyloid plaques that are responsible for the disease. Turmeric tastes great in curries, soups, roasted vegetables, and even scrambled eggs. Other foods believed to help include coconut oil, walnuts, probiotics, and fermented foods. There are plenty of easy and delicious ways to incorporate these foods in your diet.
What you don’t eat is just as important when it comes to preventing Alzheimer’s. Trans fats and saturated fats should be avoided as they can cause inflammation, which places additional stress on the brain.