Memory Problems Could Double Your Death Risk

A form of mild cognitive impairment that affects memory is linked with a higher death rate.

In a study, a higher death risk was seen among older people whose memory problems were worse than others their age. (Photo: Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images)

Jul 17, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Mild cognitive impairment may sound like an insignificant condition, but a study finds that those with a form of it could have twice the risk of dying compared to people with no deficits.

The study centered around data on 733 people who were at least 70 years old and were part of an aging study. Cognitive tests given to the participants at the beginning of the study found that 10.4 percent of people had dementia, 8.9 percent had amnestic MCI, and 3.4 percent had nonamnestic MCI. The subjects were followed for an average of five years.

People with amnestic MCI have worse memories than healthy people the same age. Those with nonamnestic MCI have more general cognitive issues such as problems with language, attention, and planning.

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The study subjects were also tested for the APOE-4 gene variant, which ups the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease over a lifetime.

Researchers discovered that those with amnestic MCI had more than double the risk of death compared to those with no cognitive problems, but nonamnestic MCI wasn’t linked to a higher death rate. The risk of death among people with dementia was three times higher than those who were normal.

Other risk factors for a higher mortality risk included having the APOE-4 gene variant and severe depression.

“While there is no treatment for MCI, dementia, or Alzheimer’s, these findings support the benefits of early detection and monitoring of cognitive impairment in order to prolong life,” said senior author Dr. Richard Lipton in a news release. Lipton is professor and vice chair of the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York. The study was presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Assn. International Conference in Vancouver.

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