Have you noticed that you're forgetting where you put your keys or shoes, losing your train of thought in a conversation or having trouble remembering how to navigate your way to a familiar place? Well, those are some of the symptoms of what is called mild cognitive impairment, and according to the American Academy of Neurology, it may affect around 6.7% of folks 60 to 64, increasing to more than 25% of those 80 to 84.
But MCI may not be as scary as it sounds! Not only are there many causes, but there's a lot you can do to reverse, halt or slow its progression, or to avoid MCI altogether. Plus, only about 15% of cases of MCI evolve into full-blown dementia in folks 65 and older - and it's impossible to know how long that will take. (If Alzheimer's disease is the underlying cause of initial symptoms, it could be two or three years or longer.)
There are two kinds of MCI: One's called amnestic, meaning that you have memory problems; and the other is nonamnestic, which means you have other cognition problems that are more pronounced. These include problems with language (you can't find the right words) and with decision-making and navigation (visuospatial difficulties).
What are the risk factors? Some are hard to control: Men may be more likely to experience problems than women, and there can be genetic predispositions (does MCI run in your family?). There are many factors you can control, including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, elevated lousy LDL cholesterol, cardio- and cerebrovascular disease, bodywide inflammation, depression and anxiety. Plus, we say age is also a risk factor that you have control over. Most places list it as a risk factor you cannot control, but they're wrong. You can take steps to make sure you have a younger RealAge by five, 10, or even 20 years! Take your test at sharecare.com.
Those risk factors are why the direct causes of MCI may include medications (for those various conditions), stroke or other vascular disease (associated with Type 2 diabetes), a traumatic brain injury or an underlying health issue, such as sleep deprivation or mental illness (depression or anxiety).
Make fighting MCI your Major Capital Improvement - from top to toe.
1. Ask your doc about possible medication side effects that may interfere with your cognition. Explore alternatives, if needed.
2. Ask for a checkup to make sure you don't have elevated glucose or LDL levels (get it below 70 mg/dL) or unidentified cardiovascular problems.
3. If you have high blood pressure (your target is below 125/85), Type 2 diabetes or other cardiovascular diseases, discuss medications and lifestyle changes that can reverse or control your condition. Act today to spare your brain tomorrow!
4. Embrace a healthy diet: Eat dinner for breakfast and take in most of your daily calories for breakfast and lunch. Try the Mediterranean diet; it's plant-centered with minimal meats (mostly fish) and lots of healthy oils. If the doc says OK, have one to two glasses of wine daily. And bite into the life-changing "What To Eat When" Diet; go to www.WhenWay.com or DoctorOz.com (search for the What to Eat When Plan Cheat Sheet).
5. Exercise regularly: Five or more days a week, aim for 60 minutes of aerobics (some vigorous), and two days a week get strength training using stretch bands, hand weights or weight machines. Move often - get up every hour for 10 minutes!
Bonus Tip: The British Journal of Nutrition has published a study that correlates waist circumference with reduced cognitive abilities that characterize both amnestic and nonamnestic MCI. That's because the visceral fat packed around your internal organs (and increasing your waistline) triggers brain-damaging inflammation. So, battle the bulge by eating lean proteins and lots of veggies, and getting regular physical activity, including strength-building and aerobics, and seven to eight hours of sleep nightly (sleep helps cognitive health and weight loss).
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.