Mild Cognitive Impairment

Authored by MCN Neurologists

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a relatively new term used to describe mild symptoms of decreased mental function. Memory and language difficulties, the most common complaints, are milder than the symptoms of dementia, and may affect as much as 20% of the population over 70 years old.  Those diagnosed with MCI have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer type dementia (ATD), but not everyone diagnosed with MCI will progress to dementia.


Your doctor will take a careful history and perform a neurological examination. Complementary blood tests and/or brain wave tests or brain scans (CT or MRI) may be requested. These are to detect the many factors that can interfere with cognitive functioning. Bringing a complete list of your medication to your appointment will be helpful, as is bringing a person close to you, such as your spouse, a relative or a friend, who may assist with your history.


There is no FDA-approved treatment for MCI; however there is some evidence that some of the medications used for the treatment of Alzheimer type dementia may have a benefit, if transient, on the course of MCI. Research is ongoing in this area and your doctor will discuss your options with you.

Cognitive Occupational Therapy at Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology assesses problems caused by cognitive impairment and develops intervention strategies to improve function.


This has been an active and sometimes controversial area of research; however studies have suggested that the following lifestyle factors have a positive effect on cognition:

Exercise/Physical activity:  A 20 to 30 minute walk a day is a good start.
Mental activity:  Socialize; stay active in organizations, work part-time or volunteer
Healthy diet:  Rich in vegetables, legumes, fruit, blueberries and fish.
Work with your physician on controlling hypertension and diabetes.
The role of supplements is uncertain, and no strong recommendation has emerged.  Vitamin E and ginko biloba have not proven themselves helpful in this case.

For further information about Mild Cognitive Impairment, click on the following links:

Occupational Therapy for Cognition (Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology Occupational Therapy program for cognition) (Alzheimer’s Association)  (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)  (information about senior care, caregiving and medical alert devices)

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