Researchers say nearly 7.5 million older Americans are likely living with mild cognitive impairment without realizing it. This is a problem they want to solve for several reasons. MCI is not part of the normal aging process. Additionally, recently approved drugs may help preserve cognitive function in patients in the early stages of decline, but not in the later stages. Getty Images
Nearly 7.5 million older Americans are estimated to have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a potential early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but don’t know it.
That’s according to a new study from the University of Southern California, whose researchers recently published two papers on the subject.
At firstwas announced in Alzheimer’s disease research and treatmentResearchers analyzed data on 40 million Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older and compared the number diagnosed with the disease to the number expected to be diagnosed. They estimated that about 8 million Americans in that group are likely to have MCI, representing about 13% of the country’s elderly population, or 1 in 7 older adults. However, only 600,000 people received proper medical diagnosis.
Second studypublished on Tuesday Alzheimer’s disease prevention journal, The study also found that MCI is “significantly underdiagnosed,” with 99.9% of primary care clinicians in the United States not fully aware of their cases. Researchers crunched the numbers on data from about 250,000 U.S. doctors and concluded that only about 8% of U.S. residents with the disease are diagnosed.
Researchers say nearly 7.5 million older Americans are likely living with MCI without knowing it. This is a problem they want to solve for several reasons. Contrary to popular belief, MCI is not part of the normal aging process. Additionally, recently approved drugs may help preserve cognitive function in patients in the early stages of decline, but not in the later stages.
Although the disease is generally underdiagnosed in the United States, it is worse among patients from historically disadvantaged groups, such as blacks, Hispanic Americans, and those with less education. Not only that, researchers say, such groups also have a higher risk of developing the condition.
And that’s a tragedy. For MCI caused by Alzheimer’s disease, “the earlier you treat it, the better the outcome,” said Dr. Soren Mattke, director of the Center for Chronic Disease Treatment Improvement at the University of Southern California and co-author of both studies. ,Tell you luck. “This means that every day counts, even if the disease is progressing slowly.”
What to do if you are worried about MCI
People who have concerns about their memory, such as becoming forgetful, having trouble keeping track of time, or getting lost more often, should discuss this with their doctor. People who are caregivers of people going through such changes should schedule and attend appointments for their loved ones, Matke says.
Your primary care provider can perform a quick assessment to decide whether to refer you or your loved one to a specialist, such as a neurologist or geriatrician, who can perform more detailed cognitive testing.
A little preparation is required for primary care providers to perform a preliminary cognitive assessment. Therefore, if you are seeking treatment, we recommend that you let your doctor’s office know when you schedule your appointment, rather than telling your doctor at the time of your appointment.
If you’re middle-aged or younger, you likely don’t have MCI, which is “highly associated with aging,” he added. The number of MCI patients in their 50s is “still quite small.” It is generally seen in people over the age of 65.
Relationship between MCI and Alzheimer’s disease
MCI is a set of symptoms that are not necessarily caused by Alzheimer’s disease, Matoke said. Still, about half of MCI cases are caused by early Alzheimer’s disease. And now that there are treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to slow the progression of the disease, it’s more important than ever to see your doctor if you’re concerned.
Before this summer, when the FDA approved recanemab (Rekenbi), doctors often did not perform physical tests (such as PET scans and cerebrospinal fluid analysis) on patients with MCI that are necessary to diagnose early Alzheimer’s disease. . In the case of this disease, doctors were unable to slow the progression.
Now that this drug has been approved, Dr. Mattke recommends that patients previously diagnosed with MCI should see their doctor and ask if they should be tested for Alzheimer’s disease, with the goal of starting treatment if appropriate. ing.
Lecanemab is like “Drano for the brain,” he said, and will require an infusion administered at a medical center, perhaps every two weeks. Symptoms cannot be reversed because lost brain cells do not regenerate, but it is possible to remove amyloid plaques and tau tangles from the brain and slow the progression of the disease.
Although the treatment is not a cure, it may allow some Alzheimer’s patients to “live out their biological lifespan and be able to recognize their spouse when they go to bed at night.”
Mattke said it’s critical for patients diagnosed with possible Alzheimer’s disease to realize that while “there are treatments,” “time is not on our side.”