After 75, Many Suffer Mental Decline
The Cincinnati Post - November 21, 2003

More than one in five people aged 75 and older experience mild cognitive impairment, new studies show.

Mild cognitive impairment is a broadly defined condition that affects areas of the brain that process memory and language and the areas that help maintain attention and focus, but the deficits are not severe enough to be considered dementia.

Scientists studied the prevalence of impairment and examined risk factors among 3,608 participants in the nationwide Cardiovascular Health Study that also looked at mental acuity performance. Results appear in the Archives of Neurology.

All the people had a magnetic resonance imaging brain scan between 1991 and 1994, and detailed mental and neurological exams to identify the presence of mild cognitive impairment or dementia between 1998 and 1999. The researchers found that the overall prevalence of mild cognitive disorder among the larger study group was 19 percent, with the rate rising to 29 percent in those older than 85.

They also noted that the majority of cognitive difficulties are the result of multiple problems, such as small "silent" strokes, depression, use of psychiatric medications and other chronic disease processes that can affect the brain, particularly liver and kidney failure. A genetic variation associated with Alzheimer's, called APOE4, also was a risk factor.

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®2001 American Psychological Association
Last updated: 11/27/2003 - 10:22 AM