People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are more likely to develop dementia, a neurologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital said, adding that people with MCI who do not exercise their brain regularly are 4.3 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Neurologist Fuh Jong-ling (傅中玲) said that she had been treating a 67-year-old retired businessman surnamed Chen (陳) who had no abnormal medical conditions and often went hiking with his friends, but found himself beginning to have memory loss in the past two years.
He was unable to recall the names of his friends, forgot to buy the things that his wife asked him to, could not remember the time and location of an appointment and had difficulty in remembering things he recently learned, Fuh said.
Although still capable of handling routine daily tasks, Chen sought medical help at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Fuh said.
When he was told a list of 12 items and asked to remember them after 20 minutes, he could only remember four, Fuh said, adding that magnetic resonance imaging showed no signs of hippocampal shrinkage in Chen’s brain, but only leukodystrophy, which led him to be diagnosed with MCI.
The hospital cited a study by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which showed that among Taiwanese aged 65 or over, 18.8 percent have MCI and 8.04 percent have dementia.
There are about 570,000 people with MCI — about the population of Miaoli County — and 240,0000 people with dementia in the nation, the hospital said.
About 10 to 15 percent of people with MCI develop dementia, it said, adding that people with single domain amnestic MCI are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
MCI is an transitional condition between being normal and having dementia, Fuh said.
An ongoing study that the hospital launched in October 2012 on 87 MCI patients consisting of 46 men and 41 women, with an average age of 74, showed that 24 of them — 11 men and 13 women — developed Alzheimer’s disease, she said.
While regular brain exercises, such as reading, playing cards or chess, solving crossword puzzles, playing instruments or video games can help maintain brain functions and postpone degeneration, it is also important that elderly people go through cognitive check-up exams every year, Fuh added.
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