Is It Mild Cognitive Impairment or Something Else?

Mild forgetfulness is often a normal part of aging. But for some people, memory and thinking issues can become more serious as they get older.

These memory problems can make it difficult to complete daily tasks, such as grocery shopping or keeping up with doctor’s appointments.

As you get older, it’s important to understand the differences between typical age-related memory issues and conditions like mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia.

Take a look at the infographic below to compare the symptoms of MCI with dementia and normal aging.

If you’re experiencing consistent memory issues, talk with your doctor to find out the cause.

What is mild cognitive impairment?

MCI is when a person experiences a small but noticeable decline in memory or thinking skills. People with MCI can usually still take care of themselves and complete daily tasks on their own.


MCI is fairly common in older individuals. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that roughly 15 to 20 percent of people over age 65 may have MCI.


The symptoms of MCI are often broken into two main categories:


Amnestic symptoms. These include memory-related problems, such as forgetting names, places, or conversations, or misplacing items and forgetting where they are.
Non-amnestic symptoms. These include problems with thinking skills that aren’t memory-related, like losing your train of thought — or your sense of time or direction — or having trouble focusing.


MCI vs. dementia vs. healthy aging


MCI isn’t considered dementia, but roughly 10 to 15 percent of people with MCI may develop dementia each year, including a specific type of dementia known as Alzheimer’s disease.


Alzheimer’s disease accounts for between 60 and 80 percent of dementia cases.


MCI is sometimes defined as a transitional stage between the expected cognitive decline of getting older and the more serious cognitive decline of dementia.


The differences between MCI, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, and healthy aging relate to the severity of your symptoms.

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