Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Individuals who have mild cognitive impairment experience minimal memory loss and they may have episodes of unclear thinking. People who have this form of memory loss can still perform their daily activities and they do not require a caregiver.

Those who have mild cognitive impairment usually realize they are having problems with their memory, so they often write important reminders down on paper. The cause of this condition is not completely known but it may be caused by the same types of issues with the brain that is responsible for dementia. These include a reduction of blood traveling to the brain, numerous mini-strokes and ventricle expansion.

What are the Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment?

There are two distinct types of mild cognitive impairment symptoms and they are called amnestic and nonamnestic.

Amnestic symptoms include
  • The loss of memory, such as forgetting a person’s name or failing to remember an appointment.
Nonamnestic symptoms include
  • Cause problems making wise decisions and they lack organizational skills.

Individuals who are diagnosed with MCI should visit a medical professional once or twice every year for testing to make sure the condition is not getting worse. It is possible that individuals who have MCI may be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) Causes

The causes of MCI are not fully understood. In some cases it is thought to be the early stages of cognitive impairment that lead to a more serious disorder, such as Alzheimer’s, but this may not always be the case. However, scientists have identified several factors that increase an individual’s risk of developing MCI. These risk factors are the same as for dementia.

The risk of developing MCI increases with age, and there may also be a genetic component to the disorder, as people with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or another form of age-related cognitive decline are also at greater risk.

People who are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease are also more likely to develop MCI. This may be because cardiovascular issues can affect blood flow to the brain, potentially depriving it of oxygen and other nutrients. Over time this may result in cell death. Specific risk factors for cardiovascular disease include being overweight or obese, smoking, consuming large amounts of alcohol, and eating unhealthy diets.

How is Mild Cognitive Impairment Treated?

Since there is no medical treatment for mild cognitive impairment, it is recommended that individuals make some changes in their daily habits to try and slow down the advancement of their memory loss.

Treatments include

Getting daily exercise, which helps to improve cardiovascular health, and eating nutritious meals that include lean protein, vegetables, fruits and grains. It is also suggested that individuals should routinely challenge and stimulate their mind by engaging in mental and social activities. Examples of these types of activities include working crossword puzzles and conversing with other people.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) Prevention

A number of studies have shown that lowering blood pressure is an effective way of preventing MCI. Quitting smoking, reducing your consumption of alcohol, reducing the amount of fat in your diet, lowering your cholesterol levels, and cutting back your salt intake are steps you can take towards controlling your blood pressure.

Physical exercise is particularly important in the prevention of MCI. It causes the brain to grow new brain cells, and makes the brain more efficient at using the cells it already has. Some studies have shown that exercise not only slows down the decline in cognitive abilities, it can also reverse it.

These measures will reduce your risk of developing MCI, as well as dementia, Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive issues, but they can not remove the risk completely.

Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
April 07, 2019
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