Reduced risk of developing dementia

  • Deborah Condon

People with memory problems are at less of a risk of developing dementia than previously thought, the results of a new study indicate.

UK researchers analysed data from 41 studies and found that people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) appear to have a lower risk of progressing to dementia than previously thought.

“MCI is an important disorder of memory and related areas found in about one in six people seen in general practice. The condition can occur in mild or late life and until recently, most doctors told people with MCI that their risk of developing dementia was up to 15% per year, making deterioration almost inevitable within five to 10 years,” explained lead researcher, Dr Alex Mitchell of the University of Leicester.

However the study found that the proportion of people with MCI who progressed to dementia was 10% per year in high risk groups and just 5% per year in low risk groups. Furthermore, only a minority (20-40%) of people developed dementia even after extended follow-up and this risk appeared to reduce slightly with time.

“These results should be seen as positive for those with memory problems, even for those who struggle with the kind of memory tests given by their GP,” Dr Mitchell said.

The researchers added that GPs can be reluctant to give a diagnosis of MCI, but this finding should encourage doctors to identify people with memory problems, as many such patients stay stable for a long period and a substantial number may also improve.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.

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