Do you sometimes worry that your brain is not working as well as it should, or as well as it used to? Or have your friends or family noticed that your memory seems to be slipping?
It is normal to become more forgetful as we age. But consistent memory issues, or changes that seem to get progressively worse, may suggest a more serious condition. If those changes in how your brain functions are more significant than what is considered normal for your age, it could be a sign that you have mild cognitive impairment.
MCI may include problems communicating, remembering things, or using language, thinking clearly, or making good decisions.
In the early stage, changes in the way the brain functions are generally not bad enough to affect everyday life. Some people experience enough change to be diagnosed with MCI, but never get worse or develop dementia, while some eventually even get better. But sometimes, MCI gets progressively worse and becomes dementia.
So how can you tell if your memory slips are normal, or might be something else? If the changes are noticeable enough that they are bothering you, your best option is to talk to your health care professional.
Your doctor may recommend that you take one of two tests that are frequently used to assess brain function. Both tests involve answering simple questions, and remembering a variety of items as the test progresses.
The Mini-Mental State Exam has been a popular choice for doctors since it was developed in 1975. It takes about eight minutes to complete the test, which examines orientation, word recall, language abilities, attention and visuospatial abilities.
A newer test, known as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, was introduced in 1996. This test takes slightly longer, at 10 to 12 minutes, and covers similar topics as the MMSE.
The MoCA is believed to be more sensitive in detecting small changes in brain function. This means that a very mild cognitive impairment that may be overlooked by the MMSE is more likely to be caught by the MoCA.