Researchers have discovered that people with a form of mild cognitive impairment, a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease, have twice the risk of dying compared with cognitively normal people, while those with dementia have three times the risk.
Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a condition in which people have memory problems more severe than normal for their age and education, but not serious enough to affect daily life.
Another form of MCI, nonamnestic MCI, is characterized by impaired thinking skills other than memory, such as trouble planning and organizing or poor judgment.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, studies suggest that 10 to 20 percent of people aged 65 and older may have MCI.
In the latest study, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center studied 733 individuals enrolled in the Einstein Aging Study. All participants were at least 70 years old and lived in the Bronx.
At the start of the study, each had a cognitive evaluation and at least one annual follow-up visit. They were also tested for the APOE-4 gene variant, which is linked to increased risk for Alzheimer’s. Participants were followed for an average of five years, with some followed as long as 16 years.
The researchers found that those with amnestic MCI had more than two times (2.17) greater risk of death, while nonamnestic MCI did not appear to increase mortality risk. The risk of death among participants with dementia was more than three times greater (3.26) than that of those who were cognitively normal.
Researchers also found that having the APOE-4 gene variant, a greater number of other diseases or conditions, and severe depression were also related to higher risk of mortality.
“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 Richard Lipton, M.D., the senior author of the study and director of the Einstein Aging Study.
The Einstein Aging Study examines both normal brain aging and the special challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Since its initial funding 30 years ago by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, its investigators have tracked more than 2,000 Bronx County residents.
The findings of the latest study are being presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver this week.