There are so many symptoms that might indicate your brain is slowing down earlier than it should. And seemingly just as many causes. That's why you shouldn't panic while reading this article, or immediately assume the worst. It's always good to be informed, though, so you can be an advocate for your own health.
That said, it's not common for young women in their 20s and 30s to experience symptoms of brain aging. But it can happen. Sometimes it's just a simple due to a health issue — like a vitamin deficiency — leading to brain health problems, such as brain fog. Or, your memory issues might be a sign of a more serious cognitive decline, or even early-onset dementia. Either way, it means you need to be evaluated by a doctor right away.
"If someone is displaying symptoms that are becoming noticeable and bothersome to family members, they should tell their primary care physician and see a neurologist," Dr. Clifford Segil, a neurologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center, tells Bustle. "We have a lot of experience dealing with both young and old patients with this complaint."
Your doctor can help you figure out if there's cause for concern and your brain actually is aging faster than it should. Or, if you just need to make a few lifestyle changes to get your health back on track. Here are some symptoms you should never ignore...
1. You Can't Remember The Names Of People You Just Met
Some people are bad with names, and that's OK. But if you suddenly can't remember anyone you just met, take it as a sign. "As we age, it’s very common to experience difficulty remembering names of people or places, but recalling them later," says Howard Fillit, MD, founding executive director and chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF). "But early signs of dementia may include subtle short-term memory problems, like forgetting names of people and misplacing familiar objects."
2. You Get Confused Easily, Or Feel Lost
If you're experiencing dementia-like symptoms, you might also get confused a little too easily. As Fillit says, "Other signs may involve difficulty multi-tasking or disorientation caused by confusion with time or place." If you get lost while driving home from work, for example, that's likely a sign of a problem.
3. Your Mood Or Personality Has Drastically Changed
Mood changes happen to everyone every single day. But if it's severe, it may be a sign of dementia. "Dementia is defined as a range of symptoms associated with mental decline that interfere with daily life," Fillit says. "It is most commonly associated with memory loss, but can also include changes in mood and personality."
4. You Often Forget Why You Went Into A Room
Sometimes little things, like not being able to remember why you went into a room, can be enough to tip you off. "Forgetfulness, misplacing items, and walking into a room and not remembering why you are there are all signs of premature brain aging," Dr. Scott Schreiber tells Bustle. "Many times these are warning signs that we are overworked or lacking in something, such as nutrition or exercise." But they could also be a sign of dementia or a disease, so get checked by your doctor ASAP.
5. Your Brain Fog Has Gotten Worse
Brain fog can come about for any number of reasons, like lack of sleep. But Schreiber tells me it can also be a sign of premature brain aging. And since it can be serious, don't let it go on untreated.
6. You're Suddenly Extremely Unmotivated
A brain issue should not be the first thing that comes to mind if you're feeling unmotivated. But if it's out of character for you, do take note. "Constant brain fog, isolating yourself, and lack of motivation are more serious symptoms [of an aging brain," Schreiber says. "These still can be reversed, but if left alone can progress.
7. You're Suddenly Feeling Very Isolated
As Schreiber mentioned above, some people with brain health issues might take to isolating themselves when they start to feel off kilter. If you're feeling confused, for example, or have been getting lost when walking around town, it makes sense why you'd suddenly want to stay home.
8. You Have Tremors And Shakiness
Sometimes, brain health issues, like dementia, can show up in a more physical form. "Patients who are shaky or tremulous and start acting strange are concerning to me for having Lewy Body Dementia or Parkinson’s Dementia," Segil says. And that's something you want to start tackling right away.
9. You're Getting Worse Over Time
As Segil tells me, he often looks out for patients who have a progression of memory loss or other complaints over time. "Patients who have a ‘step-wise’ progression of memory loss or other complaints, i.e. one’s symptoms get worse in January then June, are concerning for multi-infarct or vascular dementia to me," he says. "These patterns of memory loss are what I look for when taking a neurological history of patients concerned their brain may be slowing down or aging prematurely."
10. You Keep Forgetting Recent Events
It's not uncommon for dementia patients to forget what they did earlier in the day, or sometime last week. As Segil says, "Patients who become more forgetful of recent events more than remote or old events, express a pattern that is concerning for early Alzheimer’s Dementia."
11. Your Symptoms Are Impacting Your Daily Life
Since dementia and other cognitive issues aren't the most common in younger women, it can be tough to say exactly what might be causing your symptoms. But, if you feel like any of the above are impacting your daily life, see a doctor. He or she can give you a cognitive exam to figure out what, exactly, is going on.
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