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Friday, April 18, 2014

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Book explores mild cognitive impairment

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Three Baycrest psychologists have written one of the first books on mild cognitive impairment (MCI) aimed at patients and families.

Nicole Anderson, Kelly Murphy and Angela Troyer spent about 1-1/2 years working on Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Guide to Maximizing Brain Health and Reducing Risk of Dementia, published by Oxford University Press.

MCI is considered a transition stage or border between mild cognitive changes associated with normal aging and more serious cognitive problems caused by an underlying disease process such as Alzheimer’s.

The authors say that 10 to 15 per cent of people with MCI will progress to dementia within the first year of being diagnosed with the condition, and about 80 per cent will develop dementia within six years.

“The silver lining [though] is that research is starting to identify lifestyle modifications that can improve functioning and slow progression to dementia, and not all people with MCI will get worse,” they wrote.

Troyer, who has been at Baycrest for 16 years, said the book came about because over the years patients have asked for recommendations and there were no books on the market. “There were books on Alzheimer’s and there was [research aimed at health professionals], but there was a real gap.”

Written primarily with patients in mind, the book is also aimed at family members and people who take care of them. It is divided into three sections: what is MCI; how it is identified, and what can be done to improve prognosis.

It begins with a case study about a man living with MCI who does not fully understand his diagnosis and is frustrated by his symptoms. By the end, he is equipped with tools to live with MCI.

Each case study presented in the book is made up of an amalgamation of patients, said Troyer.

MCI can be scary, she said, because there are so many unknowns. “There is nothing to predict what will happen. It can progress to Alzheimer’s, but it can also remain stable or go away. Some things do increase a person’s risk, but no one knows.”

People often worry about what is normal memory loss and what is MCI, she said.

“That is the million-dollar question. It is hard to know what is normal unless the patient is assessed, but there are red flags.

“It is totally normal to forget a name or where you put something, but if you forget the name of a loved one, or people tell you that you are forgetting or repeating things, you should see your family doctor. By definition, patients have progressed to dementia when they are no longer able to manage daily acts.”

 She said that certain lifestyle changes, which are good for all brains, don’t cure anyone, but the positive changes could keep a brain functioning at its maximum for as long as possible.

“Maintain a healthy diet, exercise your brain, keep active and stay social. There are also practical memory strategies that can help someone with MCI,” said Troyer.

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