Half a million Canadians aged 65-and-older have it, but many don't know it because only a small percentage pursue a diagnosis. It may lead to dementia, including dementia due to Alzheimer's disease, but not always.
Now leading experts in brain health with Toronto's Baycrest have published the first comprehensive book on Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). It's called Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Guide to Maximizing Brain Health and Reducing Risk of Dementia. MCI is a condition that has yet to work its way into the public psyche the same way Alzheimer's has, but a growing body of science and clinical evidence is showing it to be a risk factor not to be ignored.
MCI is considered a transition stage or border zone between mild cognitive changes associated with normal aging and more serious cognitive problems caused by an underlying disease process such as Alzheimer's. Ten to 15% of individuals with MCI causing memory decline will convert to dementia within the first year, and about 80% will develop dementia within six years. But there is a silver lining – research is starting to identify lifestyle modifications that can improve functioning and slow progression to dementia, and not all people with MCI will get worse.
Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (Oxford University Press) is written specifically for individuals who have been diagnosed with MCI, their loved ones, and for healthcare professionals.
"Many older adults worry whether the cognitive changes they are experiencing with age are normal or indicate cause for concern," says Dr. Nicole Anderson, a clinical neuropsychologist and senior scientist at Baycrest, and co-author of the book with colleagues Drs. Kelly Murphy and Angela Troyer.
People with MCI are typically still able to work and engage in normal social activities. Their memory problems and difficulties with attention and reasoning are much less severe at this stage compared to a more advanced clinical dementia. As with all dementia screening, doctors have to rule out a myriad of other factors that may be responsible for changes in a patient's cognition, such as depression, diabetes, stress, insomnia, medication side effects, and be familiar with the latest diagnostic criteria for MCI, in order to tease out an accurate diagnosis.
"Even when MCI is confirmed, people remain uncertain about what the diagnosis means for their future and whether or not there is anything they can do about it. Similarly, many healthcare practitioners are unclear about how best to advise their clients on how to manage living with MCI. Our book provides much-needed clarity and guidance for both groups,"; adds Dr. Troyer.
The book is organized into three sections. The first section addresses what MCI is, how it differs from normal aging and dementia, what it may lead to, and risk factors. The second section describes how MCI is diagnosed and treated, and how it affects individuals and their family members. The third section provides information about how to optimize cognitive health through lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, cognitive and social engagement, and the use of practical, effective memory strategies.
Dr. Murphy, who runs a memory intervention workshop at Baycrest for people with MCI and their loved ones, says "older adults experiencing the symptoms of MCI often make efforts to hide their condition from family, friends and co-workers. They are worried about being stigmatized and treated differently." The workshop teaches people with MCI evidence-based memory strategies and healthy lifestyle practices to delay/slow down cognitive deterioration, and provides supportive counseling to spouses and other family members.
Drs. Anderson, Murphy and Troyer have devoted their careers to assessing and treating older individuals with MCI and other cognitive changes. They have published widely on these topics and presented their research at international science conferences. They strongly encourage people to see their doctor as soon as they start experiencing memory issues that don't seem normal. They also encourage family doctors to become familiar with MCI diagnostic criteria.
For more information or to interview the book's authors, please contact:
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