Mild Cognitive Impairment



The causes are not clear. It may be caused by early brain changes of dementias such as Alzheimer disease.

Risk Factors

MCI is more common in people over 65 years of age. Things that may raise a person's risk are:

  • Family history of MCI, dementia, or Alzheimer disease
  • Smoking
  • Health problems such as depression, diabetes, and stroke
  • Not being active
  • Low levels of vitamin D



A person with MCI may:

  • Be forgetful or forget how to do tasks
  • Be irritable
  • Not have or show emotions
  • Get upset easily
  • Have problems making decisions


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Cognitive tests will also be done. The doctor may also talk with family members and caregivers.

More tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis. For example:

  • Blood tests may be done to look for gene changes.
  • A lumbar puncture may also be done to check the fluid around the brain and spine.
  • Images may be taken of the brain. This can be done with an MRI or CT scan .



The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Healthy habits can ease the impact of symptoms. Steps may include:

  • Cognitive training to help memory and function
  • Getting light exercise
  • Eating a healthful diet that includes fish


There are no medicines that have been shown to help MCI. Some people may be given cholinesterase inhibitors to treat changes in thinking.


Healthy habits may lower the risk of MCI in some people. This means:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthful diet
  • Avoiding or quitting smoking or vaping
  • Staying mentally active

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.