It's Time to Change the Beliefs About Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild Cognitive Impairment is diagnosed by a physician using a combination of cognitive testing and information about the person. This is a stage of memory loss or other cognitive ability loss (such as language or visual/spatial perception) in individuals who maintain the ability to independently perform most activities of daily living.  Many patients hear this diagnosis as a prediction that they will definitely progress to Alzheimer’s disease.  But Science is providing hope to these individuals.

BELIEF: Being diagnosed with MCI means I will develop Alzheimer’s disease

Not True

Some statistics

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 12% to 18% of people age 60 or older are living with MCI. An estimated 10% to 15% of individuals living with MCI develop dementia each year. About one-third of people living with MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease develop dementia within five years.  Certainly not 100%

In some individuals, MCI reverts to normal cognition or remains stable. In a 2022 study in the journal Neurology, almost half of individuals diagnosed with MCI were classified as cognitively normal at follow-ups of 2-4 years. In some cases, such as when a medication causes cognitive impairment, MCI is mistakenly diagnosed. It is important that people experiencing concerning cognitive changes seek help for diagnosis and possible treatment.

BELIEF: There’s nothing I can do to modify my risk

Not True

In addition to talking to your doctor to rule out other causes, you can make lifestyle changes that can make a difference.  Most research has examined the impact of physical activity on MCI.

  • 2014 The Smart Study: Resistance training significantly improved global cognitive function in MCI patients, with maintenance of executive and global benefits over 18 months.

  • 2022 In the journal ScienceDirect, a review of 73 studies on exercise and MCI concluded that all types of exercise were effective in slowing the decrease in memory, executive function and global cognition.


The lack of treatment options and all of this data supporting exercise for MCI led the American Academy of Neurology to issue a guideline recommending exercise twice a week for MCI patients.

Marie Stoner

Clinical Psychologist

Activate Brain & Body

Chief Science Officer

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