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What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which people have more memory or thinking problems than other people their age. The symptoms of MCI are not as severe as those of Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, and people with MCI can usually take care of themselves and carry out their normal daily activities.

However, people with MCI are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Roughly 2 out of 10 people age 65 or older with MCI are estimated to develop some type of dementia over a one-year period. In some cases, the symptoms of MCI stay the same.

If you have this condition, it’s important to see a doctor or specialist regularly to help monitor changes in memory and thinking over time to ensure things aren't progressing. There is also hope in the form of promising clinical studies with new treatments which may help slow progression or treat the symptoms of MCI.

What Causes Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Many factors can cause problems with memory and thinking. There is no single cause of MCI, and it's more likely to occur as someone ages. Estimates vary, but roughly 10% to 20% of people over age 65 have MCI, with the risk increasing as someone gets older. Other factors like genetics and certain conditions — including diabetes, depression, and stroke — may affect a person’s risk for MCI.

In some cases, memory and thinking problems may be caused by conditions that are treatable. For example, a bad reaction to medication, emotional problems, drinking too much alcohol, blood clots or tumors in the brain, or a head injury can all cause serious memory problems that can be resolved with treatment.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Symptoms associated with MCI lie in the space between what are considered normal age-related changes and dementia. Signs of MCI include losing things often, forgetting to go to important events or appointments, and having more trouble coming up with words than other people of the same age. It’s common for family and friends to notice these changes, and you may only notice when they bring it up. Movement difficulties and problems with the sense of smell have also been linked to MCI.

How Is Mild Cognitive Impairment Diagnosed and Managed?

Your doctor can perform medical tests and assessments to help determine whether the source of memory problems is something treatable or may be MCI. He or she may also suggest that you see someone who specializes in the diagnosis of memory disorders, such as a neurologist, or psychiatrist.

There is currently no treatment, medication, or cure for MCI & Alzheimer's Disease. There are however things that you can do which may help you stay healthy and manage changes in your thinking. Keeping your mind active, eating well, exercising and being organized is one thing that may benefit your brain.

If symptoms do progress to dementia, getting a diagnosis early can help you and your family prepare for the future. While there are no medications to stop or reverse Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, there are medicines that may help slow down certain symptoms, such as memory loss or behavioral problems, and clinical trials which may benefit you and others in the future.

What Can You Do?

If you are concerned about memory problems, talk with your doctor. If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with MCI, explore the resources on the web and find out more about care, support, and research. Using things like to-do lists and calendars can be helpful to those with MCI and Alzheimer's. Staying active, avoiding alcohol, doing puzzles and games like sudoku can be very beneficial as well.

Green Mountain Research Institute is currently enrolling volunteers with MCI or Mild Alzheimer's Disease (or suspected MCI/A.D) to test a medication which may help slow the progression of the disease. Participants get study related care and exams for free, as well as the study medication and are closely follow by a Board-Certified Psychiatrist and medical team. GMRI also offers free memory screenings at our office in Rutland, VT. To find out if you qualify, get more information about the study, or to get a memory screening, visit our website or call (802) 855-8368

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