If You Notice This in the Bathroom, It Could Be an Early Sign of Dementia
New research says to keep an eye out for this pattern in your bathroom habits.
There's a good reason people become more concerned about developing dementia as they age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 5 five million seniors aged 65 and older are living with the disease, with numbers expected to soar to 14 million by 2060. For many, getting an early handle on cognitive decline involves keeping an eye out for changes in memory or communication habits. But according to one new study, your next trip to the bathroom might alert you to an early sign of dementia. Read on to see what you should do if you notice this health red flag.
A new study says constipation could be an early sign of dementia.
In a study published on Mar. 1 in the medical journal The Lancet, researchers aimed to better understand early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease, focusing on a 15-year window before diagnosis to help uncover early indicators of the condition. The team analyzed medical data from 39,672 people in the U.K. and France who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, then compared each person's record with someone else's who had not developed the condition.
In total, 123 health conditions were reported among participants in the study. The final results of the analysis were able to establish a connection between potential symptoms and Alzheimer's disease—including constipation.
Constipation affects half of all people who are 65 or older.
While the other conditions noted in the research have relatively well-established connections with the onset of cognitive decline, the study represents the first association made between Alzheimer's disease and constipation in its early stages. Data shows that the link between the two became most clear on average seven years after a person had been diagnosed with the condition.
Still, experiencing the condition is far from a surefire sign you'll develop Alzheimer's later in life. According to WebMD, around half of all people over the age of 65 suffer from constipation, while also noting that some medications used to treat Alzheimer's can also cause it. Medical experts recommend speaking to your doctor if you experience issues going to the bathroom—especially if you're going less than three times per week or experience pain or struggle when you do.
The study also found a connection between Alzheimer's and other health red flags.
Besides constipation, the study also uncovered other symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease. Major depression, anxiety, abnormal weight loss, reaction to severe stress, sleep disorders, hearing loss, a type of arthritis called cervical spondylosis, falls, and fatigue were all also found to be early warning signs in patients with the condition, The Sun reports.
The researchers explained that the findings could considerably impact how Alzheimer's is detected, diagnosed, and treated in its earliest stages.
"The connections made allowed us to confirm known associations, such as hearing problems or depression, and other less-known factors or early symptoms, such as cervical spondylosis or constipation. However, we are only reporting statistical associations. These will have to be the subject of further studies to understand the underlying mechanisms," Thomas Nedelec, MD, the study's first author, said in a statement. "The question remains as to whether the health problems encountered are risk factors, symptoms, or warning signs of the disease."
Lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease later in life.
Scientists are still learning more about dementia and what increases someone's risk of developing it later in life. According to the CDC, increasing age is the most significant risk factor. Still, a family history of the condition, poor heart health such as hypertension and high cholesterol, smoking, and a history of traumatic brain injury can also increase your likelihood of cognitive decline.
While there are no cures for neurodegenerative dementias such as Alzheimer's, the health agency says that some medications can help treat the disease and manage its symptoms. "Leading a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining social contacts, decreases chances of developing chronic diseases and may reduce the number of people with dementia," they advise on their website.