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Type of mild cognitive impairment appears linked to death risk

Thursday April 24, 2014
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One of the first studies to look at a relationship between death and two types of mild cognitive impairment suggests the potential for a higher risk of death over a six-year period in people with MCI but no deterioration in memory.

MCI often is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, according to background information in the study, which is scheduled for presentation at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. In one of the two primary types of MCI, the most noticeable symptom is memory loss. In the other type, language, attention, decision-making and other abilities are declining, but memory is intact.

“Currently there is little information about death and the types of memory loss that affect many millions of Americans,” study author Maria Vassilaki, MD, with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a news release. “Exploring how memory may or may not be linked with the length of life a person has is of tremendous significance as the population ages.”

For the study, 862 people with thinking problems and 1,292 with no thinking problems between the ages of 70 and 89 were followed for nearly six years. Participants were from Olmsted County, Minn., and were given tests at the start of the study and every 15 months thereafter to assess their thinking abilities.

Over six years, 331 of the group with MCI and 224 of the group without MCI died. Overall, those who had either type of MCI had an 80% higher death rate during the study than those without MCI.

People who had MCI with no memory loss had more than twice the death rate during the study than those without MCI, while people who had MCI with memory loss had a 68% higher death rate.

“We will continue to study the how and why regarding the relationship between memory decline, thinking decline and death, Vassilaki said. “This research brings us one step at a time closer to the answers.”

The AAN’s annual meeting takes place April 26-May 3 in Philadelphia. Vassilaki is scheduled to present her study Wednesday, April 30.


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