One recent heartbreaking plot twist on the TV series "This is Us" involved the eroding memory of matriarch Rebecca Pearson played by actress Mandy Moore. An MRI indicated her symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) might mean she's in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
That story line has led some viewers to wonder if they, too, should test for cognitive impairment when they notice similar "senior moments." It’s a good question.
A new report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says there's insufficient evidence to establish cognitive screening guidelines for seniors. While one review of studies found 32% of people with MCI develop dementia within five years, other studies show that 10% to 40% of people with MCI return to normal in that time span.
So what if you, your parent, or a partner is struggling with decision-making, learning, memory, language, and/or social cognition?
If the person has risk factors for dementia like smoking, drug/alcohol dependence, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or depression, address the symptoms as effectively as possible.
The USPSTF also notes that you should encourage lifestyle habits that help protect against MCI, including adequate folic acid intake, low saturated fat intake, higher intake of omega-3s (and we say omega-9s as well), high fruit and vegetable intake, moderate alcohol intake, and cognitive and social engagement.
In addition, we advise adding stress management; ditching red and processed meats, egg yolks, and cheese; and doing aerobics, muscle-strengthening, bone-strengthening, and stretching activities in appropriate amounts every week.
And ask your doctor if taking supplements and twice-daily low-dose aspirin makes sense for you.