What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment


In many cases, no specific treatment is recommended for MCI. But if your MCI is found to be due to an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease, certain treatment options may be available. There are also lifestyle measures that may help slow the progression of, or even reverse, certain symptoms of MCI.

Treatment of MCI

A couple of treatments have been approved for early stages of Alzheimers’s disease:

These treatments have been shown to help remove a marker of Alzheimer’s known as beta-amyloid plaques from the brain and improve overall cognitive function, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Since there are specific diagnostic criteria, these treatments aren’t right for everyone with MCI.

If you have MCI, you should be reevaluated every six months to see if your symptoms have progressed and determine whether any treatments are right for you.

Lifestyle Measures for MCI

Certain aspects of your lifestyle may help slow or reverse cognitive decline in people with MCI, although the results of research in this area are mixed, according to Mayo Clinic. These lifestyle measures include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Eating lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Limiting saturated fat in your diet
  • Consuming omega-3 fatty acids (such as in a fish oil supplement)
  • Keeping your brain active through activities like playing games, reading, or hobbies
  • Having an active social life
  • Memory training exercises

According to a recently published research review, lifestyle areas that are linked to progression of MCI and Alzheimer’s disease include a poor diet, stress, nutrient deficiencies, not getting enough sleep, worse mental health, lack of social activity, and exposure to toxins.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

There hasn’t been much research on whether dietary supplements or other alternative treatments may help slow cognitive decline in people with MCI. Limited evidence suggests that supplements like vitamin E or ginkgo may be helpful, according to Mayo Clinic.

But there are many quacks and frauds out there trying to sell supplements that supposedly improve memory or “support” brain health.

To save yourself both money and disappointment, talk to your doctor before trying any such supplements. And even if you’re willing to take the risk of trying unproven supplements, you’ll want to run them by your doctor to make sure there isn’t a medical reason you shouldn’t take them, such as an interaction with a medication you take.

Since poor sleep is believed to accelerate cognitive decline, improving sleep in people with MCI has been an active area of research. In a review of relevant studies, researchers found that a variety of interventions were found to help improve sleep time or quality in people with MCI or early-stage dementia — including psychotherapy techniques, the insomnia drug suvorexant (Belsomra), transcranial stimulation (a noninvasive brain stimulation technique), and melatonin.

RELATED: Sleep 101: The Ultimate Guide to a Better Night’s Sleep


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