Mild cognitive impairment is the stage of cognitive deterioration associated with aging brain that is treatable and reversible. Interventions and life style adjustments as formulated in the post “A 7- Step Action Plan For Preventing And Treating Memory Loss” can effectively reverse mild cognitive impairments.
There are rarely any severe symptoms at the earliest stages of MCI. The only thing to complain is that complex tasks become harder to complete as comfortably and effortlessly as before. Most people with MCI still function well in daily activities with less efficiency or accuracy. The standard progression of MCI symptoms include alterations in personality/temperament, memory, attention and focus. The earliest symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is from personality and temperament signs. Neurological and psychological symptoms often occur and reinforce each other at the same time. Signs of personality and temperament changes are agitation, anger, anxiety, depression, fear of being alone, frustration, mood swing, paranoia, self-neglect. Memory and cognition issues gradually emerging such as increased frequency of not remembering things a few minutes ago, memory lapses, decreased creativity and abstract thinking, increased difficulty in creating new memory, learning new tasks, making decision, and slower processing time.
Aging is the number one cause of MCI. There are chemical, anatomical, neurological changes in the brain associated with aging. Brain chemicals (dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA, serotonin) become increasingly imbalanced or deficient. (see post “Brain Waves, Brain Chemical Systems and Memory”). Many factors contribute to the progression of MCI. Some of them are directly or indirectly linked to specific brain chemical deficiencies that occur with aging or illness. Other factors are connected to lifestyle or environment.
Any type of addiction including alcohol, illicit drugs (marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, heroin, ecstasy, nexus ketamine, opium, Rohypnol, crack, hallucinogens, inhalants), overeating, is related to imbalanced dopamine. Most illegal street drugs cloud thinking and judgment, impair memory and attention.
Many prescription medications may also trigger MCI, even if not addicted. They may blur vision, increase fatigue, trigger hallucination or delusion, decrease reaction time, detract from concentration. Common prescription drugs that affect thinking include medications that treat allergies, pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, ulcers, depression, anxiety disorders and insomnia. Antihistamines slower reaction time and affect overall coordination. Combining prescription medications with over-the-counter remedies can also cause cognitive problems.
Infection (bacteria and viral infection) may cause MCI as well. Microbes often excrete toxins after entering the body. These toxins can change blood acidity, allowing the parasite to multiply in the host. Toxins can cross the blood-brain barrier and induce inflammation in the brain, thereby affecting concentration, comprehension and cognitive functions. Examples of infection that could induce the progression of MCI are: HIV, tuberculosis, Epstein-Barr virus, Lyme disease or cytomegalovirus (CMV).
Other disease complications are common causes of MCI, particularly the age-related diseases. Examples include age-related diseases (multiple sclerosis, neurodegenerative illness, Huntington’s disease), glaucoma, vascular diseases, stroke, brain tumors, obesity, organ diseases (endocrine, liver and kidney), blood sugar imbalances or hormone loss. Stroke is the second leading cause of MCI because blood supply to the brain for oxygen and nutrients are blocked.
Physical trauma can cause brain injury that in turn trigger the onset of cognition impairments. This category includes recurrent head trauma, concussions, whiplash, battering, and brain injury due to various reasons. Brain trauma has the cumulative effect, affecting memory and cognition in both the short and long term. All the hits from earlier years pile up and later affect the brain function, long after the physical bruises have healed. Professional practitioners in this field have observed a lot of cases of cognitive impairment attributable to the experience of brain trauma from earlier years. 75% of all people will have a mild concussion at some point during their life and some of them unknowingly develop severe brain chemical deficiency that affect thinking and personality. Moreover, concussion and other head injuries also affect hormone levels that regulate brain processing speed. Even minor whiplashes can still affect hormone production. Even brain trauma that happened 20-30 years ago can be affecting brain chemical today.
Psychiatric disorders (anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, panic attack, and other psychiatric disorders) all stem from an unbalanced brain chemicals. These conditions often or sometimes complicate and/or exacerbate cognitive impairments and at the same time are earliest symptoms of MCI. Insomnia is often associated with psychiatric disorders. Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are linked to serotonin chemical imbalance in the brain which exacerbate cognitive decline and at the same time are also the earliest symptom of MCI.
Environmental pollutions and toxins can affect brain speed, IQ, memory, attention, and personality. Exposure to heavy metals – lead, aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury all adversely affect brain function and it is not just the current exposures matters. Chronic exposure to lead may result in symptoms including fatigue, depression. Other heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, cadmium, and tin affect chemical synaptic transmission in the brain. Higher than normal amount of mercury contamination from dental fillings has been found in Alzheimer’s brain. Toxic load can be measured through blood sample and neuroimaging techniques (PET and MRI). These problems can be treated with naturopathic program including diet modification.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause MCI. People with MCI are often deficient in thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), vitamin B12, nicotinic acid and zinc. Studies have shown MCI can be reversed by proper diet and supplementation containing potent antioxidants. see post “Brain Boosting Foods And Supplements”.
Through “A 7- Step Action Plan For Preventing And Treating Memory Loss”, mild cognitive Impairment can be prevented or reversed. One component of the program is to increase brain chemicals when they are deficient. By replenishing the neurons in each of the different types of brain chemical receptor cells, mild cognitive impairment can be reversed. Increasing dopamine and dopamine receptor cells stimulates working memory and promote attention; enhancing acetylcholine and increasing the number of acetylcholine receptor cells help memory retrieval and increases processing speed. Balancing GABA and create more GABA receptors helps organize memory and gain mental stability. Increasing serotonin helps visual memory and perception. Increasing serotonin receptor cells prevents mood swings.