Mild cognitive impairment

This is a form of memory loss but is NOT a sign of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. A person with this form of memory loss will have difficulty with their short term memory but their ability to reason or make judgements will be unaffected.

This is used to describe a person’s current state of mind rather than a specific medical condition.

It is caused by a restricted flow of blood to the arteries within the brain which are damaged as a result of high blood pressure.

Research has found that people with a mild cognitive impairment and diabetes are at greater risk of developing dementia.

Causes of mild cognitive impairment

High blood pressure is one cause but there others which include:

  • Stroke (or series of mini strokes)
  • Shrinking of the hippocampus area of the brain (responsible for memory)
  • Diabetes
  • Build up of plaques (proteins) within the brain

Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment

Some forgetfulness is normal particularly once you are older but if you find that you are constantly forgetting things then seek medical advice.

Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Anger/aggression
  • Short term memory loss
  • Reduced cognitive abilities, e.g. attention span

However, reasoning, perception, recognition and the ability to form judgements are unaffected.

But, people who have a mild cognitive impairment are three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia than those who don’t.

How is it diagnosed?

There is no specific test for mild cognitive impairment but there are a series of tests that can be performed to rule out any similar conditions. These tests include:

  • Brain scan (MRI or CT)
  • Blood test
  • Neurological tests, e.g. eye movements, balance etc
  • Memory test, e.g. series of questions

Treatment for mild cognitive impairment

There is no treatment for mild cognitive impairment per se but there are various types of treatment for the underlying causes. For example, medication for high blood pressure or anti-depressants.

It is important to control your blood pressure as high levels of this cause damage to the arteries of the brain and so increase the risk of impairment.

This is also a problem for diabetics. If you have diabetes then make sure that you regulate your blood sugar levels to prevent the risk of long term health problems. These include mild cognitive impairment, heart disease, kidney failure and strokes.

This equally applies if you have high blood pressure. Ensure that you take any prescribed medication to maintain it at a healthy level.

It can help to give your brain a mental workout by doing crosswords and puzzles. Social interaction with others will reduce this risk along with a healthy diet and exercise.

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