Normal Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment or Dementia?

Originally published in
Forget someone’s name or what movie you saw over the weekend? Could it be Mild Cognitive Impairment (or MCI)?

Baycrest’s clinical neuropsychologist, Dr, Nicole Anderson, defines MCI as “ the boundary zone or transition state between normal aging and dementia.” Dr. Anderson and colleagues have written the first book on MCI, designed for the general public. Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Guide to Maximizing Brain Health and Reducing Risk of Dementia provides information and advice.

She reviewed that 10-15% of adults aged 65 + are believed to have MCI, which causes cognitive problems that ‘go beyond what would be expected due to normal aging.’ The good news Dr. Anderson adds, is that MCI is not as severe as dementia and those living with MCI are able to function independently. However, they are at a higher risk of developing dementia, she cites studies that show over six years, 80% of individuals with MCI have progressed to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. She compares this number to only 16% of healthy older adults without a diagnosis of MCI, go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease over a 6 year period.

There is no drug treatments approved yet to treat MCI. Dr. Anderson states that the average onset is in the 70’s. She further states that the potential cause of MCI is Alzheimers’ Disease but small strokes or a brain injury could also be factors.
It seems that the best approach seems to be use it or lose it. Baycrest has published a special issue focussing on MCI (Winter 2012). Good brain health is described as eating a healthy diet, being physically and socially active, and keeping mentally stimulated.

January is Alzheimers’ Awareness Month. It is also a good time to also pay attention to Mild Cognitive Impairment, as it may well lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimers. Baycrest offers a new program called “Learning the Ropes for Mild Cognitive Impairment, which provides strategies and education to individuals and their families. For more information visit Baycrest.
-Audrey Miller

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