Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is slight but measurable decline in cognitive abilities. The changes affect memory and thinking. They are noticeable, but generally do not interfere with daily life nor do they inhibit the ability to function independently. People who have mild cognitive impairment should be monitored by a medical professional because they are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, although some people do experience recovery.

What are the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment?

It is estimated that 15 – 20 percent of people aged 65 and older will experience mild cognitive impairment. Experts classify each case as one of two types of mild cognitive impairment, based on the following differentiation of symptoms:

  • Amnestic MCI is mild cognitive impairment that primarily affects memory. If a person is forgetting things such as events, conversations, and appointments regularly, these can be symptomatic of amnestic MCI.
  • Nonamnestic MCI is mild cognitive impairment that affects thinking skills other than memory. Visual perception, ability to make sound decisions, and ability to manage complex tasks can be affected.

How is mild cognitive impairment diagnosed?

A doctor will assess symptoms and make a clinical diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. He or she will usually consider the following:

  • Medical history will be assessed including current symptoms, medication use, history of illness, and family history of cognitive impairment.
  • In-office neurological assessment will be completed to check nerve function and senses.
  • Assessment of function will include questions about how any cognitive impairment may be affecting daily life. A loved one may be asked what he or she has observed, as well.
  • Mental status will be evaluated with brief tests.
  • Mood evaluation will help the doctor detect signs of depression that may be associated with MCI.
  • Lab tests including blood work and possibly brain scans will be conducted to confirm a diagnosis of MCI.

What is the treatment for mild cognitive disorder?

Currently, there are no medications approved to treat mild cognitive disorder. However, there are a number of strategies doctors recommend to help people cope with the symptoms and changes caused by MCI. They include the following:

  • Focusing on heart healthy behaviors and controlling cardiovascular risk factors supports blood vessels and brain function.
  • Getting exercise to keep your body healthy, and including aerobic activity that is good for your heart and blood vessels.
  • Being socially active and participating in activities that engage your brain.
  • Stimulating your brain with challenges including puzzles and games. Keep learning about subjects that interest you.

People who have been diagnosed with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia. However, not everyone with mild cognitive impairment gets worse and some people even see their symptoms improve over time. It is important to see your doctor regularly for evaluation and to follow his or her advice.

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