You may worry that misplacing your keys or your wallet…or having trouble recalling the name of an old movie…might be an early sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
But the science shows you have nothing to fear about that kind of normal, occasional, age-related memory loss.
Instead, the earliest signs of dementia and AD tend to be more subtle…
I have written before about how a loss of smell is often one of the earliest (and most accurate) symptoms of serious, abnormal cognitive decline. And now, scientists with Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore have uncovered another tell-tale, yet subtle symptom…
Issues with managing personal finances may indicate a problem
For this new study, JHU researchers looked at credit scores, bill payment history, and medical claims for more than 80,000 older men and women living in single-person households. (Since the participants all lived in single-person households, we can assume the participant was most likely managing his or her own finances, without a spouse or partner.)
Specifically, the researchers looked at two indicators of deteriorating financial management:
- Payment delinquency of 30 or more days.
- A poor credit score of 620 or lower. (A low credit score supposedly predicts the risk of defaulting on loans during the following two years.)
During the 15-year observation period, roughly 27,000 of the participants developed dementia or AD (at a mean age of 74 years).
Within three months of receiving a diagnosis, people with dementia were:
- 13 percent more likely to have missed payments. (This did not include bills that go unreported to credit bureaus, such as bills to utilities, rent, and medical collection accounts.)
- 9 percent more likely to have had a poor credit rating. (About 80 percent of the missed payments were on credit cards.)
Plus, when the researchers went back even further, the signs were still there.
In fact, as many as six years before the men and women were diagnosed with dementia, those who went on to develop the disease were:
- Over 5 percent more likely to miss scheduled credit card payments, compared to their peers.
- 5 percent more likely to be assigned poor credit scores at 2.5 years before diagnosis, compared to their peers.
Granted, these aren’t huge percentage differences. But they are significant—because they indicate a clear and marked change in long-standing competency.
In the real world, these changes may exhibit themselves as gradual increases in erratic bill payments, poor financial decisions, and victimization by fraud, as people struggle on their own, wondering what’s wrong. And, more importantly, these declines in financial literacy seem to occur years before a medical professional may pick up on cognitive impairment in a clinical setting.
Therefore, we can (and should) consider an unusual change in financial competency as a subtle sign that something may be off.
Credit card companies make money off confused older people
In an editorial that accompanied the study in JAMA, Dr. Jason Karlawish of the University of Pennsylvania (my alma mater) said the consumer credit companies know about—and profit from—declines in financial competency in some of their elderly customers. (And I can almost guarantee they pay closer attention to it than mainstream medicine.)
In fact, most credit card companies charge about 18 percent or more in compounded, daily interest on unpaid balances. (Which means they add your interest charges to your principal balance at the end of every day.)
Dr. Karlawish added, “Credit card companies have statutory protection to charge breathtaking fees and interest rates for late payments and unpaid balances, respectively.” And this kind of exploitation only compounds the greater problem of failing cognitive capacity in many older Americans.
So, in the end, I suggest you keep close tabs on your personal finances as you get older. Indeed, other studies show doing the math and keeping your “books balanced” helps keep your brain sharp. On the other hand, if you notice yourself struggling to keep up, you may want to seek out guidance from an experienced medical professional.
In addition, as I reported on Tuesday, there are several lifestyle and dietary factors that help you slow—or even reverse—the progress of this devastating brain disease. In fact, researchers with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), found that following a dozen drug-free steps resulted in significant, sustained improvements in memory in nine out of 10 people with dementia.
This research is probably the single biggest clinical research breakthrough on nutrition and dementia. And it inspired me to develop my own online learning protocol, my Complete Alzheimer’s Fighting Protocol.
In it, you can learn all about my drug-free, cutting-edge plan to fight, treat, or even reverse dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, it combines all the findings from the original UCLA program with important, additional steps, which I added based on 40 years of my own, personal research.
To learn more about this comprehensive online learning tool, or to enroll today, simply click here now!
“Financial Presentation of Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias. JAMA Intern Med. 2021;181(2):220–227. doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.6432