Staving off dementia when you have mild cognitive impairment

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This article was originally shared on Harvard Health Publishing.

The shift from this condition to dementia is not necessarily inevitable.

Will I get dementia? That common question takes on urgency if you have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a slight but noticeable change in memory and thinking skills. But the progression from MCI to dementia is not automatic. In fact, MCI is not always permanent. “It depends on the underlying cause,” says Dr. Joel Salinas, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

What are the causes of MCI?

MCI is not dementia (see “What is dementia?”), but it’s not normal thinking, either. It often stems from disease or treatments for disease, including

  • degenerative brain disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease (in which case, MCI is often a precursor to dementia)
  • stroke or other vascular disease
  • traumatic brain injury
  • a medication side effect
  • an underlying health problem, such as sleep deprivation, depression, or anxiety.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a condition of persistent impairment in brain activities