According to estimates by the CDC, in the US, around 5.6 million people aged 65 and over develop Alzheimer’s disease, and 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year.
While a decline in brain functionalities is a natural part of aging, early diagnosis can help disease management, boost the quality of life, and improve life expectancy. That is why it is important to learn to recognize the early symptoms of an underlying neurological disorder.
Start with the guide below. But if you suspect neurological problems, you should consult a specialized neurologist without delay.
Neurological disorders in seniors: An overview
Neurological disorders – or those conditions affecting the functioning of the brain and the nervous system – are growing in prevalence worldwide, alongside the aging of the world’s population.
During the ageing process, the brain and nervous system change and lose nerve cells. This may lead to consequences such as slower communication between the brain and the nervous system, and buildups in the brain tissue of waste products such as beta-amyloid, the trigger of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).
Some of the most common neurological problems affecting seniors include:
- Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
- Parkinson’s disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Epilepsy and seizures
How neurological disorders are treated
Although many neurological problems cannot be permanently cured, thanks to today’s advances in technology, screening systems, and medicine, it is possible for many seniors with neurological problems to manage their condition and boost their quality of life.
This is done through rehabilitation programs and medication therapy, which can aid in relieving symptoms and restoring essential functions necessary for daily life. These treatments, alongside stroke care and physical or occupational therapy, are delivered in local, specialized facilities.
For example, if you are looking for neurology care in Michigan, choosing a specialist in Okemos or Owosso can give you immediate and uninterrupted access to the treatments, consultations, and support you need to restore your quality of life.
15 Early symptoms of neurological problems in seniors
The early symptoms of nervous systems disease vary depending on the underlying condition you are experiencing.
For example, numbness in the face or one part of the body is a telltale sign of stroke, while mood changes, confusion, and memory loss can indicate the onset of dementia.
However, here are the top reasons you should see a neurologist:
- Headaches that are persistent, different, or arise suddenly
- Migraine that includes vomiting
- Tingling, numbness, and loss of feeling (these may be due to reducing blood circulation, which is a symptom of stroke)
- Loss of muscle strength, weakness, or exhaustion
- Changes in your vision, such as loss of sight or blurry or double vision
- Memory loss, confusion, and difficulty remembering actions, facts, or names.
- The decline of cognitive abilities or impaired mental abilities
- Loss of coordination, movement problems, or impaired balance
- Chronic back and lower back pain that affects limbs
- Muscle rigidity and muscle wasting
- Language impairment and slurred speech
- Tremors, seizures, jerking movements, and loss of consciousness
- Paralysis, which might be partial or complete
- Changes in personality and behaviours
- Sleep problems such as insomnia and sleep apnoea
If you have noticed one or more of the symptoms above, you should see your doctor immediately, who might refer you to a specialised neurologist.
Protecting your neurological health as you age
While not all neurological problems can be prevented, there are some risk factors you can avoid to lower the chances of developing nervous system diseases.
Some of the top tips for achieving perfect neurological health include shifting towards a well-balanced Mediterranean diet, exercising regularly, keeping mentally active, getting plenty of sleep, and controlling blood sugar and underlying conditions such as diabetes,
You can also safeguard your neurological health by quitting smoking, maintaining an active lifestyle, and keeping your weight in check.
If you are unsure what lifestyle changes can help you lower the chances of developing neurological problems, consulting your healthcare provider is the first step to obtaining tailored recommendations, assessing your level of risk, or monitoring your health.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.