Don't ignore the early warning signs of cognitive declineOct 18, 2022
It's impossible for people to carry out their mission or purpose when they're minds aren't working at peak capacity. I had COVID twice and both times two symptoms just crushed me. One was fatigue and the other was brain fog.
The fatigue required me to sleep for two to three hours for every hour of productive time. The brain fog confused my thinking so that it would take an hour to write out an email that would normally take 10 minutes to do.
Annie Bush, a certified brain health coach and the founder of Your Total Body, said that fatigue and brain fog are both symptoms of a more sinister problem -- a decline in cognitive ability.
"Many people joke around with their friends about forgetting someone's name or not being able to remember a specific word. They also talk about needing only four to five hours of sleep," she explained. "In reality, your body is making such a reduced level of melatonin that you can't stay asleep for any longer."
Noting that a person's brain actually starts shrinking years before he or she notices any type of cognitive decline, Annie said it's important to pay attention to the symptoms in order to begin early treatment.
"Being in denial of what's going on just makes reversing cognitive decline even more difficult," she said. "You can decide to do something sooner rather than forcing your family and loved ones to make difficult decisions about your memory care options later."
Cognitive decline occurs because the longer we are alive, the more we are exposed to environmental, physical and mental toxins that enter our body at the end of a fork, Annie explained.
"The longer you don't stay healthy, the more the toxins build up in your brain and it can no longer clear those toxins," she added.
Annie identified the following warning signs that indicate cognitive decline may already be underway:
- Facial recognition -- Seeing someone you know you should recognize, but can't remember his or her name.
- Brain fog -- Mental fatigue or confusion that progresses throughout the day.
- Decreased interest in reading books -- It's hard to remember a story line or follow it from chapter to chapter.
- Difficulty following complex conversations -- This is sometimes evident when watching movies or documentaries.
- Forgetting why you entered a room -- One of the first signs of memory loss, this symptom also includes an inability to recall items on a mental list you created before leaving home of places to go or things you need to buy.
- Struggling to find a word -- As a result you may wind up offering a roundabout explanation of what the word you're thinking about actually means.
- Getting stressed about driving -- Your reaction time is slower and you can't remember directions or the meaning of road signs.
- Easily fatigued when driving or reading -- This happens to me all the time. Annie says it's a symptom that your brain isn't getting enough oxygen and it needs to rest in order to reset.
- Constipation -- This is also an early sign of Parkinson's Disease along with a loss of smell. If you don't have a bowel movement every day, it may mean your brain and gut aren't communicating properly with each other.
- Lack of motivation or drive -- You lose interest in things that used to provide you great joy.
- Sleep disruption -- Struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep at least seven hours a day indicates your body has trouble clearing out toxins at night.
- Reduced hand-eye coordination -- You may have trouble lining up the car in a parking space or gauging depth perception.
- Depressed for no reason -- Being depressed without a triggering event, such as bad news, may be one of the earliest signs of mental decline.
"The idea of losing cognitive ability is scary, but denying it or ignoring the problem makes it harder to get help and makes it even harder on loved ones who helplessly watch as you decline," said Annie.
The good news is people can complete a computerized nerocognitive assessment to establish a baseline of their cognitive ability by testing short-term memory and processing speeds. Annie also advises people to test their genetics for the presence of the Apolipoprotein E protein, which indicates their level of risk to developing Alzheimer's Disease.
"With that information, we can develop a strategy using nutrition, exercise and lifestyle changes to start reversing early cognitive decline," she explained.