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Solving the Puzzle of Alzheimer’s Disease-Is it MCI or Alzheimer’s?

Posted on | November 8, 2013 | No Comments

Alzheimer's disease treatment and diet book

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Alzheimer’s disease is perhaps one of the most misunderstood neurological disorders, and for good reason.  Criteria for diagnosing mild Alzheimer’s continues to change, and there are many conflicting views on diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

In order to fully understand Alzheimer’s disease, comprehending some of the applicable medical terms is necessary.  For example; dementia is a decline of an individual’s mental ability which becomes severe enough to interfere with independence in daily living. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is a term that describes a wide range of symptoms including memory loss and other deficits in thinking skills that are severe enough to interfere with one’s activities of daily living- also referred to as “ADL’s.” According to Alz.org 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

What is MCI?

There is a lot of confusion about the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment also called “MCI.”  The term “cognitive” refers to awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment in thinking.  Mild cognitive impairment is a condition that causes adverse cognitive changes that are noticeable to the individual with MCI as well as to those around him/her. These impairments are not severe enough, however, to interfere with ADL’s, therefore they do not meet the criteria for a full-blown Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  MCI is a fairly prevalent condition occurring in up to 20% of individuals age 65 and older, according to Alz.org.

The bad news is that those with mild cognitive impairment have a greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.  It’s important to note that NOT all people with MCI will get Alzheimer’s,  Some may even see an improvement of symptoms with time-unlike individuals with Alzheimer’s disease which is a progressive disorder (meaning the condition will continue to worsen with time).

MCI used to be a disorder involving ONLY memory loss, but recently new guidelines have been adopted that break MCI down into classifications according to the symptoms.  For example, those with mostly memory loss are said to have “amnestic MCI,” and when thinking skills (such as the ability to make good decisions, or knowing the proper sequence of steps to finish a task) are adversely affected it’s referred to as “nonamnestic MCI.”

Not everyone with MCI will go on to be diagnosed with dementia, but a very high percentage of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease had MCI as a predisposing factor to the disease.  According to the American Psychological Association; “In a given year, about 15 percent of people with a new MCI diagnosis will progress to dementia. “By about eight years out, roughly 80 percent of people will have progressed.”

Risk factors for MCI are the same as those for Alzheimer’s disease, including;  age, family history, and those with an increased risk for heart disease.

Currently there is no treatment for mild cognitive impairment.  Drugs to treat Alzheimer’s have NOT been found to slow down the symptoms of MCI. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends the following interventions for those with MCI;

  •  Exercise regularly to help promote good circulation to the brain
  • Familiarize yourself with cardiovascular risk factors and follow recommendations to control those risks in order to protect blood vessels to promote brain health
  • Participate in mentally stimulating activities daily such as- purchase music therapy for memory CD
  • Get involved socially-which helps maintain healthy brain function
  • Seek medical re-evaluation frequently, some experts suggest as often as every 6 months
  • Find local supportive services in your community. The Alzheimer’s Association’s designated help line can be reached at 1-(800)- 272-3900

To learn more about Alzheimer’s treatment and how proper diet may contribute to Alzheimer’s prevention, visit Harvard trained neurologist, Dr. Richard Isaacson’s website and purchase your copy of his books today-“The Alzheimer’s Diet book” and  “Alzheimer’s Treatment/Alzheimer’s Prevention.”


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Harvard-trained Neurologist, Richard S. Isaacson, M.D. currently serves as Associate Professor of Clinical Neurology, Vice Chair of Education, and Education Director of the McKnight Brain Institute in the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami (UM) Miller School of Medicine. He completed his residency in Neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School, and his medical internship at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, FL. Prior to joining UM, he served as Associate Medical Director of the Wien Center for Alzheimers disease and Memory Disorders at Mount Sinai.

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