Men more likely to suffer mild cognitive impairment

A new study has shown that men are more likely than women to develop a mild form of mental impairment known to be a risk factor for dementia.

Researchers involved in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging reported today in the journal Neurology that more than 6 percent of Americans age 70 to 89 develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) every year. Also, the condition appears to affect men and those who only have a high school education more than women and those who have completed some higher education.

In the video at right, Dr. Rosebud Roberts, Mayo Clinic neurologist and epidemiologist, discusses the findings of the research.

People with MCI are at the stage between suffering the normal forgetfulness associated with aging and developing dementia, such as that caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory that do not interfere with everyday activities, although their forgetfulness is often apparent to them and their friends and family. While not everyone with MCI develops dementia, an estimated 5 to 10 percent do.

Symptoms of MCI include:

  • Difficulty learning and remembering new information
  • Difficulty solving problems or making decisions
  • Forgetting recent events or conversations
  • Taking longer to perform complex or difficult mental activities.

Our Colleagues at the UK Science Media Centre collected the following commentary:

Derek Hill, Professor of Medical Imaging Science, University College London, said:

“More women get dementia than men. Yet this new research shows that more men than women develop a complaint called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI),  frequently an early warning sign of dementia. Perhaps these gender differences, if better understood, could provide a clue to new ways of preventing dementia.

“By the time people get clinical dementia, it may well be too late to treat them.   People with “Mild Cognitive Impairment” or MCI are known to be at high risk of developing dementia. This study shows that MCI is a very complicated mix of factors, and that different types of MCI arise and progress quite differently. This information could be important in improving diagnosis to identify patients who will benefit from current or future treatments.”

Dr Anne Corbett, Research Manager, Alzheimer’s Society, said:

“Increasing our understanding of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) could help us unravel the many mysteries still surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and move us closer to treatments and a cure. This exciting research adds to previous evidence that men could be more susceptible to MCI than women. However we now need further research into why this is the case.

“One in three people over 65 will die with dementia and by 2021 there will be over a million people in the UK with the condition. Yet dementia research remains drastically underfunded. Only through more research can we find out more about MCI and its relationship with Alzheimer’s disease. We must invest now.”

Further information from the Alzheimer’s Society:

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may affect more men than women, research published in the journal Neurology claims today (Wednesday 25 January 2012). 1,450 people who had no signs of cognitive impairment were revaluated 15 months later. Men were 26% more likely to develop MCI than women, and 32% more likely to develop MCI with memory problems. The study also found that people with a low level of education (12 years in education or fewer) had a higher rate of MCI. MCI includes problems with memory or thinking beyond that explained by the normal rate of ageing and often leads to Alzheimer’s disease.

* ‘The incidence of MCI differs by subtype and is higher in men’ by Roberts et al. is published in Neurology.