What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment (And Why It Doesn’t Always Lead To Dementia)

Cognitive Impairment

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment (And Why It Doesn’t Always Lead To Dementia)

Did you know that globally there are approximately 10 million new dementia diagnoses annually? Around 55 million people live with dementia, and it is the seventh leading cause of death. So – what is mild cognitive impairment, and does it indicate a future dementia diagnosis?

The answer is a bit more convoluted than a simple yes or no. We’ll give you a sneak peek: mild cognitive does not always indicate dementia, and often, it can be resolved!

Working on your cognition (or helping a loved one) are easy steps you can start taking today to prevent dementia onset. Luckily, we will go over some helpful tips and tricks and address how mild cognitive impairment differs from dementia. Keep reading for more information!

What Is Cognitive Impairment?

Have you wondered what the mild cognitive impairment definition is? Before diving into the “mild” aspect, let’s take a look at the definition of cognitive impairment.

Cognitive impairment is a group of neurological problems, such as:

  • Memory lapses
  • Difficulty learning new tasks
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulties making decisions

It can affect reasoning, language, or attention span. Many people see the stages of dementia as an example of cognitive impairment, and they aren’t wrong! Dementia is on the extreme end of this sliding scale, while mild cognitive impairment is on the opposite.

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment is slight changes in memory or thinking. It should not affect how a person lives, but it could be a potential risk factor down the road for independence. Friends and family may notice small changes, such as brief lapses in memory or taking longer to think about a complex problem.

Here are some more specific mild cognitive impairment symptoms and what to watch out for:

  • Misplacing household items
  • Forgetting important appointments (e.g., doctor’s visits)
  • Changes in smell
  • Changes in how a person moves
  • Visual perception changes

What causes mild cognitive impairment? Unfortunately, the root cause is not entirely clear to medical experts. Some suggestions include diabetes, stroke, or depression.

Sudden changes in cognition likely indicate an underlying problem, and sometimes, it is easily treated! For example, medication anxiety, or sleep disorders can cause mild cognitive impairment symptoms. One of the most apparent underlying causes is when a person drinks too much.

Many people have likely seen or been on the receiving end of how alcohol can change coordination, memory, and focus. Neurological injuries such as traumatic brain injuries or tumors are more severe causes.

Mild Cognitive Impairment vs. Early Signs of Dementia

Mild cognitive impairment is not the same as dementia, nor does it indicate a person will eventually develop dementia. The early signs of dementia can overlap. Medical experts predict only 10% to 20% of adults over 65 developed dementia after mild cognitive impairment signs.

This study did not include younger adults and didn’t highlight if there were other predisposing factors. The researchers suggested that most mild cases were resolved.

One important thing to remember about dementia is memory problems are not indicative of a diagnosis. Memory issues must be associated with a couple of other cognitive impairments, such as:

  • Language skills
  • Communication
  • Focus or attention
  • Problem-solving

Mood changes including apathy or depression may also be present. An official dementia diagnosis simply means that a person has a group of these symptoms that affect the ability to carry on daily living safely. In-home or assistive living care is usually needed.

Mild cognitive impairment could only affect a person’s memory, and it won’t impede their ability to live independently.

How Do You Treat Mild Cognitive Impairment?

There are no definitive treatments that help mild cognitive impairment. Some physicians prescribe Alzheimer’s medications for these patients, but research is limited regarding its efficacy. Instead, most people are shifting their focus onto lifestyle changes and therapy, such as:

  • Reducing high blood pressure
  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Cognitive training interventions
  • Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Seeking help for mental health illnesses

Speech therapy is an underutilized tool for mild cognitive impairment. Largely seen as a field that works with kids or dementia patients, many speech therapists work in an in-home setting focusing on:

  • Word-finding
  • Articulation
  • Cognition
  • Repetition
  • Reading
  • Speech and language development
  • Problem-solving

As you can see – a speech therapist’s expertise matches closely with mild cognitive impairment signs. The benefit of in-home care for dementia and mild cognitive impairment is that you can use your home as a safe space. It helps develop familiar routines, involves family, and maximizes sessions.

In-home therapy can also reduce stress and worry that you or a loved one may have about driving to a therapy office. The primary benefit is that it uses professional guidance to help with cognitive tasks.

What Do Dementia Studies Show?

Researchers have found that risk factors for dementia increase with these contributing factors:

  • Less education
  • Hypertension
  • Hearing impairments
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of socialization

Prevention is the best treatment option. If you notice a loved one struggling with enough socialization, consider scheduling more frequent friend or family outings. Encourage safe and regular exercise, healthy lifestyle changes, and visit a doctor about prescription eyeglasses or hearing aids.

How Home Health Care Can Help You

Home health care includes personal aids, social services, speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. The benefit is that they come into you or a loved one’s home and work directly on tasks that may be challenging.

Exercise and cognitive exercises are two areas that can help improve cognitive impairment and prevent dementia. Now that you can answer the question “what is mild cognitive impairment,” there are several steps to take to reduce the risk for dementia.

Start now and see the results! Contact us today or fill out our new patient forms!

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