Mild Cognitive Impairment

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.

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Do mild cognitive impairments differ from normal aging-related declines?

There is some gradual decline in mental ability (cognition) with normal aging. There may be a reduction in learning new information, a slowdown in mental processing, a slowdown in performance, and an increase in distraction. However, these declines do not adversely affect daily living activities or overall functioning resulting from normal aging. The aging process doesn’t affect long-term memory, intelligence, or recognition.

Normal aging can lead to people forgetting words and names and misplacing things. It is common for people suffering from mild cognitive impairments to forget information such as appointments and other planned activities, as well as conversations.

Is MCI associated with dementia?

An individual suffering from dementia may have a number of symptoms that make it difficult for him or her to carry out everyday activities. There are several diseases that can cause it, with Alzheimer’s being the most prevalent. Memory loss, confusion, communication difficulties, mood changes, and other symptoms of dementia are common. The symptoms of dementia usually appear gradually and get worse over time, especially for people with early dementia.

MCI is milder than dementia and may not affect someone so deeply. People with MCI can normally handle day-to-day responsibilities without the assistance of others, such as working, driving, and managing their finances. Unlike dementia, which makes it difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks.

It has been found that people with MCI are more likely to develop dementia in the future depending on the underlying cause.

The number of people who develop dementia when they are diagnosed with MCI increases every year by about one in ten. More than half of those with MCI do not experience any worsening of symptoms, or they actually get better. People with dementia can develop it at different rates depending on their age.

Symptoms

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:

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Causes

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

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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

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Complications

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.

Prevention

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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Outlook

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is believed to be the most common cause of dementia among patients. The onset of early dementia precedes the onset of MCI, which marks the transition from normal aging to early dementia.

A person with mild cognitive impairment cannot yet be told what rate of decline he or she will experience. Patients with mild cognitive impairment continue to be studied for mental and medical changes that may be associated with their diagnosis of certain types of dementia, as well as their rate of development.

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