Harvard Mental Health Letter

Mild cognitive impairment

New technologies and drugs may improve diagnosis and management.

Mild cognitive impairment is about twice as common as dementia. Although reports of prevalence vary, one analysis of participants in a cardiovascular health study estimated that 19% of those ages 65 to 74, and 29% of those older than 85, had mild cognitive impairment. This diagnosis can be demoralizing, because it is associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing dementia, especially Alzheimer's disease.

About 10% to 15% of people with mild cognitive impairment develop dementia each year, and at least half develop dementia within five years. Most develop Alzheimer's, and in these individuals, mild cognitive impairment is likely a prodrome (an early manifestation) for this disease, rather than a separate condition. Less often, people with mild cognitive impairment develop other types of dementia, such as vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, or dementia with Lewy bodies.

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