HomeHealth articlescognitive difficultyWhat Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild Cognitive Impairment: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatment

Verified dataVerified data

4 min read


Mild cognitive impairment could be a precursor of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Read about the precautions to prevent the worsening of symptoms and their treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Abhishek Juneja

Published At August 22, 2023
Reviewed AtAugust 22, 2023


Mild cognitive impairment is the transition stage between the expected memory and thinking ability that begins to decline and more severe stages of dementia. Mild cognitive impairment includes problems with memory, impaired judgment, and language and speech difficulties. According to the research and surveys, about 40 percent of the population experience symptoms of mild cognitive impairment after 65 years of age. This would mean cognitive impairment is an age-related disorder affecting the brain.

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment is when the symptoms of cognitive impairment begin to occur. Individuals experiencing symptoms are aware of their memory being affected. Their family members, relatives, or friends may also make them aware. Since these symptoms are at their initial stages, the condition is not very severe and does not affect much. However, untreated or ignored conditions can worsen the condition and lead to severe or advanced cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Researchers believe mild cognitive impairment might never worsen, and individuals may eventually improve. Hence, mild cognitive impairment is also considered a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and Dementia, not a causative factor.

According to studies, about seven percent of the population develop dementia within one year, 15 percent develop it in the second, and 20 percent develop dementia after three years of being diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

What Are the Risk Factors Associated With Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment is associated with the following risk factors:

  • Old age.

  • Hereditary (MCI running in families from generations).

  • Increased risk of heart diseases like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

  • Obesity.

  • Diabetes.

  • Stroke.

What Are the Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Just like there are age changes throughout the body, aging also affects the brain and its ability to function. Most people might become forgetful with increasing age. At times individuals may often find it difficult to recollect memories or may take time to the incidences from the past. If the condition concerns mental health functions, symptoms of mild cognitive impairment begin to occur. Symptoms of MCI may be stable for years or may worsen depending on other underlying factors like mental health conditions and medical diseases. The following are some relatable symptoms that can occur in MCI (mild cognitive impairment):

  • Forgetting things and names of one’s family members, friends, and relatives.

  • Missing appointments and social events.

  • Losing train of thought and ability to think.

  • Difficulties in following a story, book, or movie plot.

  • Difficulty with maintaining conversations with people and forgetting what one spoke about.

  • Problems with completing tasks at work or making decisions are common.

  • Individuals may find it difficult to find their way back home or a place they have always been familiar with.

  • Most people often experience poor judgment skills, depression, anxiety, temper tantrums, and chronic or long-lasting lack of interest in daily activities.

What Are the Causes of Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild cognitive impairment is multifactorial, and there is no one specific cause. It may also occur as a pre-indication of Alzheimer’s or early dementia. Specific brain changes occur during mild cognitive impairment, similar to those during Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. However, the changes that happen occur to a lesser degree in comparison. The following are the causes of MCI (mild cognitive impairment):

  • Depression.

  • Anxiety.

  • Chronic stress (long-lasting stress).

  • Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.

  • Conditions affecting blood flow to the brain.

  • Vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin B12.

  • Impaired vision and hearing conditions.

  • Infections that spread to and affect the brain.

  • Side effects of medications (anticholinergic and antidepressants).

  • Habits like smoking and severe alcoholism.

How Is Mild Cognitive Impairment Diagnosed?

Since there is no specific test to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor’s judgment is essential to diagnose the condition. Diagnosis of MCI begins with a thorough medical history, including family history and mental health conditions. Sometimes, the individual's family members and friends may be asked to answer a few questions regarding the individual’s daily activities. Medical professionals and doctors discover the root cause of the underlying symptoms, which helps in further diagnosis. Other conditions may require to be ruled out for further investigations. This is usually performed with routine blood tests and scans like MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to understand the changes in the brain.

Sometimes specific tests may be done to assess the brain's and memory's functioning. In-depth thinking skills and neuropsychological testing may also be done in severe cases. These tests help understand the individual’s decision-making ability and ability to perform complicated tasks.

How Is Mild Cognitive Impairment Treated?

Since there are no such medications used in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment, mild medication doses used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia help in preventing the symptoms from getting worse; however, recent studies showed medications used to treat Alzheimer’s and dementia might not benefit from slowing down the progression. However, studies are still going on to find the definitive treatment for mild cognitive impairment. Medical professionals and doctors, however, may prescribe medications to treat psychiatric disorders, depression, anxiety, and anger issues in case of noticeable symptoms.

How Can One Prevent the Symptoms From Getting Worse?

One should adopt measures to maintain good health and good brain functioning. Exercising the brain helps to prevent cognitive decline. The following is recommended to improve memory and thinking skills:

  • Healthy exercises to control blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

  • Quitting habits like smoking and alcohol consumption.

  • Following a healthy diet and eating pattern.

  • Adopting mechanisms to control stress or help cope with stress.

  • Getting an adequate amount of sleep.

  • Exercising the brain by playing games that involve thinking, reading, and learning.

  • Engaging in social activities and interactions.


Studies show most people with mild cognitive impairment are at a higher risk of developing dementia in later stages of life. However, symptoms of mild cognitive impairment should not be ignored, and the necessary precautions and measures to prevent the symptoms from worsening should be adopted at the earliest. Individuals suffering from MCI (mild cognitive impairment) should see a doctor every six to twelve months to check their brain functions and monitor the symptoms.

Dr. Abhishek Juneja
Dr. Abhishek Juneja



cognitive difficulty
Community Banner Mobile
By subscribing, I agree to iCliniq's Terms & Privacy Policy.

Source Article ArrowMost popular articles

Do you have a question on

cognitive difficulty

Ask a doctor online

*guaranteed answer within 4 hours

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. iCliniq privacy policy