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What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment? What Can You Do?

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills. With MCI one can be at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

If you ever feel your mind slipping in a worrisome way, you might be experiencing Mild Cognitive Impairment. MCI is a form of memory loss and more common than Alzheimer’s yet very less known. The good news is that MCI is often treatable by adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle.

There are 2 types of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI),

(1) Amnestic MCI – loss of memory
(2) Nonamnestic MCI – struggle with other thinking skills, such as executive function or language

Who is at Risk for Mild Cognitive Impairment?

An estimated 15 to 20 percent of people with age 65 or older have MCI, but it can also occur in people much younger. [Source]

Other risk factors are:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Depression
  • Previous head injury
  • Social isolation

Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Forgetfulness is the major symptom of MCI. Let’s take a simple example;

If you can’t find your car keys, because you don’t remember where you kept last time. That’s normal and nothing to worry about.

If you can’t find your car keys, because you put them in your refrigerator. Not that’s something more serious.

Other common signs and symptoms of MCI:

  • Struggle to understand and interpret information you read
  • A decline in ability to solve problems
  • Forgetting the name of a family member
  • Losing interest in your favorite activities
  • Struggling to make decisions

What can you do, if you have Mild Cognitive Impairment?

The causes of mild cognitive impairment are not yet completely understood. There’s no cure for MCI, and no sure way to prevent it. Doctors can offer different options, from medicine and supplements to recommending exercise, better nutrition, and other brain healthy habits.

Exercise as a Defense Against Cognitive Impairment
Healthy lifestyle choices can always help decline cognitive impairment. Neurologists say patients with MCI who stay stable with regular mild exercises tend to be those who embrace a brain-healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, raise the level of chemicals that protect the brain, and reduce the loss of neural connections.

Eating the Food that’s Healthy for Brain
A diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, poultry, whole grains, and legumes can drastically promote brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline or dementia.

There’s no particular food that promotes brain health, but the best defense is to eat a balanced, healthy diet.

Seek treatment for Anxiety and Depression
It’s common for people with mild cognitive impairment to experience feelings of anger, sadness and irritability. These are the signals of anxiety and depression.

If left unaddressed they can contribute to and even accelerate MCI. So if you have these feelings, it’s important to seek treatment.

Good for the Heart, Good for the Brain
Your brain health is closely tied with your heart health. So dealing with cardiovascular risks can cut off the risk of MCI. These include high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Having diabetes increases your risk of dementia by more than 70 percent. [Source]

See Also: Your Brain’s Green Time

The bottom line

There are many possible causes of mild cognitive impairment, and many are treatable. It’s possible to halt MCI by adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle. Sometimes they can even reverse MCI depending on the cause.

Dr. Vishal Jogi

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