A new study from the University of Waterloo found that people with mild cognitive impairment may not inevitably develop dementia.
In fact, having higher education and advanced language skills could more than double their chances of returning to normal.
The study could comfort those with mild cognitive impairment as it contradicts a common assumption that the condition is simply an early stage of dementia.
People with mild cognitive impairment show signs of cognitive decline, but not enough to prevent them from performing typical daily tasks.
They have been considered at higher risk of progressing to the more severe cognitive decline seen in dementia.
Possessing high cognitive reserve – based on education, high academic grades, and written language skills—may predict what happens years after someone receives a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.
Even after considering age and genetics, higher level of education is found to more than double the chances that people with mild cognitive impairment would return to normal cognition instead of progressing to dementia.
The study also found that language skills, whether reflected in high grades in English in school or in strong writing that was grammatically complex and full of ideas, were also protective.
The researchers discovered that almost one-third of 472 women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment reverted to normal cognition at least once over an average of eight-and-a-half years following their diagnosis, with more than 80 percent of them never developing dementia.
Almost another third of the total number progressed to dementia without ever reverting to normal cognition, while three percent stayed in the mild cognitive impairment stage, and 36 percent died.
None of the participants reverted from dementia to mild cognitive impairment.
The researchers also highlighted that reverse transitions are much more common than progressing to dementia in relatively younger individuals who didn’t carry a certain genetic risk factor and had high levels of education and language skills.
It’s encouraging to see that there are other ways to reduce the risk of dementia, such as building cognitive reserve through education and language skills earlier in life
If you care about dementia risk, please read studies about 12 things that can prevent dementia, and blood test that can predict dementia, Alzheimer’s 5 years early.
For more information about dementia, please see recent studies that COVID-related brain damage more likely in these people, and results showing keeping your brain active may delay Alzheimer’s dementia 5 years.
The study was conducted by Maryam Iraniparast et al., and published in Neurology.