Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) – Symptoms and Causes

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) occurs between normal aging-induced cognitive decline and more severe dementia. You may have problems with thinking, language, memory, or judgment.

People with mild cognitive impairment may notice that their memory or mental function has deteriorated. Their family and close friends may also notice a change. However, the changes you’re experiencing aren’t severe enough to interfere significantly with your daily routine and activities.

You may develop dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease or another neurological condition if you suffer from mild cognitive impairment. However, some patients with mild cognitive impairment never get worse, and some even become better over time.


Your brain changes as you age, just like the rest of your body. Growing old brings about a gradual increase in forgetfulness for many people. Some words take longer to think of or to remember than others.

You may have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) if you’re frequently concerned about your mental performance. It may be possible to experience cognitive issues that go beyond what’s expected, in which case MCI may be suspected based on these symptoms:

  • There is a greater chance of forgetting things.
  • Events like social engagements or appointments slip your mind.
  • If you lose track of conversations, books, or movies, you may lose your train of thought.
  • Decisions are becoming increasingly challenging, as are planning steps to complete tasks or understanding instructions.
  • It becomes increasingly difficult to navigate familiar environments.
  • It becomes increasingly difficult for you to make good decisions.
  • When these changes occur, your friends and family notice.

Among the symptoms of MCI are:


Causes of MCI

It is impossible to identify one specific cause or outcome of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). There are three types of MCI: stable MCI, Alzheimer’s disease, and other types of dementia. Either way, the condition may take years to develop, progress, or improve over time.

The current evidence suggests that MCI is associated with similar cognitive changes to those seen in Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, but to a lesser extent. Autopsy studies of people with MCI have revealed some of these changes. The following changes have been made:

  • Alzheimer’s disease-associated abnormal beta-amyloid protein clumps (plaques) and microscopic tau protein clumps (tangles)
  • Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and Parkinson’s disease are all associated with Lewy bodies, which are microscopic clumps formed when another protein occurs in the brain
  • Blood vessels in the brain can become blocked or do not function properly when a stroke occurs

MCI is thought to cause the following changes in the brain:

  • Hippocampus shrinkage, a brain region important for memory
  • Fluid-filled areas of the brain (ventricles) enlarge
  • Reduction of glucose use in key brain regions, which is the sugar that provides energy to cells

Risk factors

MCI is strongly associated with the following factors:

  • Increasing age
  • You may be affected by cognitive decline even if you carry a certain gene, such as APOEe4 – the gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease – but this isn’t a guarantee

Cognitive changes can also be caused by other medical conditions or lifestyle factors, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Low education level
  • Engaging in mental or social stimulation infrequently


Dementia is significantly more likely to develop in people with MCI, but it is not a guarantee. The prevalence of dementia among older adults fluctuates between 1% and 3% annually. Approximately 5% to 10% of individuals with MCI will later develop dementia.


It is not always possible to prevent mild cognitive impairment. However, research suggests that some environmental factors may be associated with the development of this condition. The following steps may reduce cognitive decline:

  • Avoid excessive alcohol use.
  • Air pollution should be minimized.
  • Ensure you don’t suffer a head injury.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Handle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and depression.
  • Manage sleep disturbances and practice good sleep hygiene.
  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet that’s low in saturated fats and full of fruits and vegetables.
  • Engage in social activities.
  • Regular exercise at a moderately vigorous intensity is recommended.
  • If you are deaf, you should wear a hearing aid.
  • Play games and play puzzles to keep your mind active.

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