A clinical study published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience investigated risk factors in the transition from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia. Seventy-six patients ages 57 to 89 diagnosed with MCI were followed for six years. Neurological examinations, laboratory tests, and cognitive and health assessments were conducted every three to six months.
The study found the presence of vascular disease—including high blood pressure, high LDL-cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, and coronary artery disease—was the most prominent risk factor in the transition from MCI to dementia. About 94 percent of the participants who developed dementia during the study period had two or more vascular risk factors, versus 29 percent of the patients who had not transitioned to dementia by the end of the study. Other significant risk factors included advancing age and level of education.
Most people undergo some degree of cognitive decline as they get older. MCI is more serious than this “age-related” decline in cognition, but it does not meet the criteria for dementia. Not everyone with MCI develops dementia. (While approximately one to two percent of individuals over age 65 develop dementia each year, this rate is about 10 to 15 percent in patients with MCI). To date, no medications have been demonstrated to slow the progression of MCI to dementia. This study adds to the evidence that diet and physical activity patterns that are good for the heart may also be good for brain.