Mild cognitive impairment in older age may not lead to dementia

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In a new study from Columbia University, researchers found although a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) might worry an older adult, it does not necessarily lead to dementia.

In fact, they found nearly half of seniors tracked in the study—all of who had been diagnosed with issues in memory and thinking and received an MCI diagnosis—no longer had the condition a few years later.

The findings suggest that MCI status should be viewed as a “higher risk classification,” and not as an early stage of dementia.

In the study, the researchers followed just over 2,900 study participants, average age mid-70s, for about six years.

During the research period, 752 participants were diagnosed with MCI.

Those diagnoses happened when the participants reported problems with memory or thinking and a test showed cognitive impairment.

They were still able to maintain daily activities and had problems with fewer than three activities, such as shopping or handling medications.

The team found among those with MCI, 480 did follow-up assessments. Two years later, 13% of those with MCI had dementia.

Another 30% still had MCI but had not developed dementia. About 10% had declines in mental functioning, but still did not meet the criteria for MCI or dementia.

But nearly half—48%—of those who had previously been diagnosed with MCI were cognitively normal on a follow-up visit an average of 2.4 years later.

The team also found those who had more education or participated in more leisure activities were 5% less likely to develop MCI.

The team noted that the results did not mean that these risk factors cause dementia, but that they showed an association.

These findings could help define future public health initiatives especially when risk factors can be modified.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about this common health problem linked to higher risk of dementia, and findings of this mental problem that can help predict dementia years before memory loss.

For more information about cognitive health, please see recent studies about why some older people can keep their minds dementia-free, and results showing that lack of this vitamin may lead to dementia.

The study is published in the journal Neurology. One author of the study is Jennifer Manly.

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