(Mild) Cognitive Impairment: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

A comprehensive guide on (mild) cognitive impairment. This post gives you all the information you need on what mild cognitive impairment is, what its causes and symptoms are, and what treatment is available. We’ve provided everything from spotting the symptoms to where you can find available treatment.

Mild cognitive impairment is established as a cognitive decline. It’s a condition that causes a person to experience a decline in their mental abilities. It’s characterized as a stage of decline that is positioned between the normal and expected cognitive decline experienced during the aging process and the more severe decline of dementia.

The most common symptoms of mild cognitive impairment include experiencing problems with memory, language, thought process, and judgment.

For many, the symptoms of the development of cognitive impairment are recognizable as they become aware of the reduction of mental function and memory. Symptoms may also be recognized by those close to the person suffering from mild cognitive impairment as the condition begins to impact activities of daily life.

This post will uncover the causes, symptoms, and treatment of mild cognitive impairment.

How is MCI Cognitive Impairment Different from Normal Aging?

A slight decline in cognitive and mental function is a normal and expected symptom of aging. This may be experienced as the decline in a person’s ability to learn and retain information, the decline in cognitive performance, and the ability to maintain concentration.

Cognitive Impairment

Whilst frequently experienced as a result of aging, these symptoms of cognitive decline are normal and don’t affect the performance of daily activities. It also does not impact overall cognitive functioning such as memory, recognition, or intelligence.

Recognizing the difference between natural cognitive decline and MCI can be distinguished by a couple of factors. A person experiencing natural cognitive decline as the result of aging may notice increased forgetfulness. Whereas, a person experiencing MCI may begin to frequently forget conversations they have had.

Symptoms

The development of MCI differs from the cognitive decline experienced by the natural aging process. A consistent and increasing decline in cognitive performance may suggest the development of (mild) cognitive impairment. Common symptoms of (mild) cognitive impairment include:

  • Memory - MCI may lead to the experience of frequently and increasingly forgetting information, conversations, and names. These symptoms may be recognized by the repetition of the same questions, telling the same stories, and forgetting the names and information of close family and friends.
  • Language - MCI may lead to a person experiencing difficulty in choosing their words and understanding information.
  • Attention - MCI may lead to the experience of frequently losing their thought process or becoming increasingly distracted.
  • Judgment - A person with MCI may begin to become more impulsive or show signs of increasingly poor judgment. They may also exhibit signs of becoming stressed and overwhelmed with decision-making and planning.
  • Other symptoms of MCI may include increased irritability, anxiety, or depression.

Symptoms of MCI can stay stagnant for years. Some people don’t experience a further decline or improvement and the symptoms simply remain the same. For others, symptoms may worsen and develop into more serious conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. And, for others, symptoms may improve over time.

Causes

The causes of (mild) cognitive impairment are to be discovered further, It’s currently established that there is no single cause of the condition. Instead, studies have shown that it is caused by changes of the brain.

These changes are considered to be less severe but similar to that of the brain changes seen in those who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Research has shown that the brain changes presented in MCI include the development of the abnormal accumulation of beta-amyloid protein and microscopic accumulation of protein that exhibits the tau characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • MCI may be caused by the development of Lewy bodies. Studies also show that MCI presents a development of Lewy bodies which are characterized as clumps of protein that form in the brain. The development of Lewy bodies can affect the way the brain works. This can impact functions of memory, movement, and thinking. Though Lewy bodies are commonly associated with conditions of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, the accumulation of the protein in the brain can cause MCI.
  • MCI may be caused by another illness such as stroke. A person who has had a stroke, experiences a reduction in blood flow in vessels in the brain. The reduction of vital nutrients and oxygen reaching the brain can lead to the development of MCI.
  • Studies conducted from brain-imaging research show that significant changes in the brain may be associated with MCI. These include the shrinking of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is associated with memory and learning. It’s located deep in the temporal lobe of each cerebral cortex. It’s characterized as a complex but vulnerable brain structure. It can be easily damaged by a range of stimuli, specifically neurological disorders.
  • Brain-imaging studies show that the development of MCI may occur as the result of the enlargement of ventricles in the brain. This is caused by hydrocephalus which is the buildup of fluid in the ventricles. The increase of excess fluid causes the ventricles to enlarge. This can result in disruption and damage of brain tissue which consequently leads to the disruption of cognitive function such as memory, judgment, and thought processes.
  • Brain-imaging studies have also shown that the development of MCI may occur as a result of conditions such as diabetes due to the elevation of glucose levels. Characteristics of dementia of impaired insulin signaling and the occurrence of oxidative stress have been associated with the development of MCI.

Other causes of MCI could include but are not limited to conditions such as chronic depression and anxiety, thyroid and kidney diseases, trauma to the brain, substance misuse, and infections and diseases that impact brain blood flow.

Risks and Complications

The most significant risk of MCI is that it may increase the risk of developing dementia. Dementia is characterized as a disease that causes severe cognitive impairment that affects daily life. Research shows that there is a likelihood that 10 to 20% of those with MCI who are aged 65 or older will develop dementia.

Other risks of developing MCI are associated with increasing age. Medical conditions such as diabetes and elevated cholesterol can increase the risk of cognitive impairment. Conditions associated with cardiovascular diseases such as having high blood pressure, strokes, and obesity, all contribute to the increased risk of developing MCI.

Another risk of developing MCI is the presence of a specific form of a gene called APOE e4. This gene is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and may increase the risk of developing MCI.

Treatment

How to Improve Brain Function (Supplements & Exercises)

As the study of MCI is still in progress, there are currently no drugs or treatments that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the specific treatment of MCI.

However, some medications can be prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Some of which may improve symptoms of (mild) cognitive disorder.

Healthcare professionals may prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors which are approved for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. This type of drug may also be used for the treatment of memory loss symptoms experienced by MCI.

Other forms of treatment include prescribed medication that helps to reduce the symptoms of the (mild) cognitive disorder such as Alzheimer’s drugs like donepezil and rivastigmine.

Other forms of treatment include alternative and natural medicine such as the use of supplements. Commonly supplements used for the treatment of MCI include vitamin E, ginkgo, and nootropics.

Other treatment approaches include the practice of learning strategies such as brain training to help improve functions of memory, retention, and thought.

Prevention

Significant changes in a person’s health and lifestyle can drastically influence their chance of preventing the development of MCI. Cardiovascular diseases and other medical conditions such as diabetes contribute to the increase of high blood pressure which increases the risk of strokes and heart-related problems.

These medical conditions are all associated with increasing the risk of MCI developing due to its impact on the brain and body.

Reducing the risk of MCI developing can be done by maintaining a clean and healthy diet and lifestyle. This includes ensuring that you consume a balanced and healthy diet and that you perform regular exercise.

Doing so will help to keep the body’s functions balanced and it will increase blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients traveling to the brain. The result is improved cognitive function that prevents the development of.

Other ways of helping to prevent the development of MCI include reducing alcohol intake, managing stress, managing medical conditions, practicing regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, and reducing smoking.

Where to Buy Supplements That Help with MCI

A growing strategy for the treatment of MCI is the use of nootropics. Nootropics are characterized as both synthetic and natural substances that can be used to help improve cognitive performance and functions.

Nootropics are commonly used for their ability to improve focus, concentration, memory, retention, and problem-solving. Studies have shown that they work by interacting and stimulating the central nervous system to improve functions of the brain.

Finding the right nootropic can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what to look for. With nootropics easily available online and with so much on offer, it can be difficult to know which is the best to go for. It’s important to ensure that the nootropics you buy are authentic and reliable.

A great vendor of nootropics is Mind Lab Pro. They offer the best all-in-one nootropic formulas that are scientifically proven by independent research. They’ve been shown to help increase focus, improve memory and eliminate brain fog.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Your questions answered.

What are the Four Levels of Cognitive Impairment?

There are four stages of cognitive severity that span from symptoms of normal aging to symptoms associated with dementia.

  1. No cognitive impairment - The first stage of cognitive severity characterizes symptoms of the normal aging process. This includes symptoms of forgetfulness and lack of concentration. This stage of cognitive impairment isn’t severe and is considered to be a normal part of aging.
  2. Subjective cognitive impairment - The second stage of cognitive severity is established as the increased decline of cognitive functioning. This stage is characterized as being on the boundary of no cognitive impairment and the progression toward becoming more impaired.
  3. (Mild) cognitive impairment - The third stage of cognitive severity is characterized as the developing decline of cognitive abilities that affect language, memory, thought process, and judgment. This stage of cognitive impairment is seen as being more severe than a normal aging process and symptoms can be seen to begin to impact daily activities.
  4. Dementia - The fourth stage of cognitive impairment is severe. Individuals with dementia experience significantly reduced cognitive function and performance. The result of which impacts greatly on their day to day life. Symptoms can become so severe that they begin to interrupt functions of speaking and walking. The effects of this can cause someone with dementia to become unable to take care of themselves.

How is MCI Different from Dementia?

MCI is characterized as the early stage of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. A person with the condition of MCI may experience reduced cognitive function, however, their level of cognitive decline won’t significantly affect their life or cause a personality change.

Dementia on the other hand is more severe. It causes more serious symptoms that cause people to experience symptoms that result in it becoming difficult for a person to conduct everyday activities. It can lead to a point where the person is no longer able to take care of themselves.

Symptoms of dementia include experiencing difficulty remembering people and places, difficulty finding the right words to use, difficulty solving daily problems, unaware of familiar surroundings, frequently losing track of time, and increasingly becoming distressed.

How Common is MCI?

Studies conducted by the American Academy of Neurology show that the presence of MCI in adults aged 65 or older is estimated to be present in 8% of adults between the age of 65 to 69, 15% between 75 and 79, and 25% between 80 and 84.

Whilst MCI doesn’t affect day-to-day life to the same extent as dementia, it is a condition that can potentially lead to dementia. With the symptoms associated with the condition being similar to the symptoms associated with that of the normal aging process, it's important to ensure that any symptoms that are presented by yourself or someone you are close to are checked out by a doctor.

Studies have shown that actions can be taken to help prevent the development of (mild) cognitive impairment. Though not guaranteed to prevent the condition, practicing a healthy diet and lifestyle may reduce the risk of developing health conditions and disease which may, in turn, prevent (mild) cognitive impairment.

Though there is no set treatment in place for treating (mild) cognitive impairment, there are prescription medications and alternative medications.

Research has shown that these treatments work in reducing symptoms and improving cognitive function and performance. It’s important to note that you should seek medical advice from your healthcare practitioner before starting any new course of treatment whether it’s natural or synthetic.

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