Mild Cognitive Impairment: What it is & what you can do to reduce your risk

Mayo Clinic states that “Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes. An estimated 10% to 20% of adults older than 65 have MCI, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Studies suggest that around 10 to 15 percent of individuals with MCI go on to develop dementia each year.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, experts classify mild cognitive impairment based on the thinking skills affected:

  • Amnestic MCI: MCI that primarily affects memory. A person may start to forget important information that he or she would previously have recalled easily, such as appointments, conversations or recent events.
  • Nonamnestic MCI: MCI that affects thinking skills other than memory, including the ability to make sound decisions, judge the time or sequence of steps needed to complete a complex task, or visual perception.

I have worked with countless individuals with MCI for 25 years, and the good news is that there are many things you can do that may prevent, delay onset, or treat MCI. From Harvard Health:

Eat right. A study of almost 900 people published in the September 2015 Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet was associated with slower mental decline in older adults. The diet emphasizes high amounts of plant-based foods like fruits (especially berries), green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and olive oil, with minimal amounts, if any, of animal products and foods high in saturated fat, like red meat, butter, whole-fat cheese, pastries, sweets, and fried and fast foods.

Exercise. Exercise improves heart health, and anything good for the heart tends to be good for the brain, too, says Dr. Okereke. Do at least 30 minutes to an hour of moderate-intensity exercise three to five times a week. It doesn’t matter what you do — weight training, regular cardio, or even brisk walking — as long as you break a sweat.

Mindfulness: Multiple studies tout the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Long-term mindfulness practice may be associated with cognitive and functional improvements for older adults with MCI. Mindfulness training could be a potential efficacious non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention for MCI.

Additionally, Forbes article references a study demonstrating that mushrooms may reduce risk of cognitive decline. A team from the departments of Psychological Medicine and Biochemistry at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine in Singapore has found that seniors who consume more than two standard portions of mushrooms weekly may have 50% reduced odds of having MCI.

I like to make this quick and easy recipe a few times a week as a side dish or add chickpeas for a full meal

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