Study examines risk of early death for people with mild cognitive impairment

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One of the first studies to look at a relationship between death and the two types of mild cognitive impairment suggests that people who have thinking problems but their memory is still intact might have a higher death rate in a period of six years compared to those who have no thinking or memory problems. 

The research is due for presentation at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, USA, 26 April–3 May 2014. The same was suggested in the study for those who are experiencing mild cognitive impairment with memory decline; however the first group had the highest death rate.

“Currently there is little information about death and the types of memory loss that affect many millions of Americans,” says study author Maria Vassilaki, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA. “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.”

In 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, USA, and were given tests at the start of the study and every 15 months to assess their thinking abilities.

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

People with mild cognitive impairment with no memory loss had more than twice the death rate

during the study than those without, while people with mild cognitive impairment with memory loss had a 68% higher death rate during the study than those without.

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

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