How is mild cognitive impairment treated?

Find out about treatment options for mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Drug treatments for MCI

There are currently no drugs that have been approved for treating MCI, as opposed to dementia.

It was initially hoped that the Alzheimer's drugs donepezil (for example Aricept), rivastigmine (for example Exelon) and galantamine (for example Reminyl) would help with symptoms of MCI, or slow its progression to dementia. However, a lot of trials of these drugs have been done and they have shown no clear benefit to patients.

Nevertheless, there is a lot someone with MCI can do to help lower their chances of developing dementia.  MCI is more likely to progress to dementia if the person has a poorly controlled heart condition or diabetes, or has strokes. Therefore, treatment for MCI will often include medication for any heart condition a person may have, or tablets to reduce high blood pressure, prevent clots or lower cholesterol. If depression is diagnosed this will also be treated, with medication, talking therapies or both.

Other ways to reduce risk of dementia

A person with MCI will also be encouraged to lower their risk of developing dementia by adopting a healthy lifestyle. People who smoke should try to stop and people who drink alcohol should keep to recommended levels. Regular physical exercise also seems to reduce the risk of dementia. Eating a healthy diet and keeping to a healthy weight may also help. Ask the GP or primary care team for advice on all of these.

It is strongly recommended that someone with MCI keeps active, both mentally (for example by doing puzzles, or reading) and socially (for example by seeing friends).

Recent evidence shows that a combined programme of approaches, rather than any one approach alone, can help to improve or maintain mental abilities in people with MCI. These approaches include medical treatment for vascular risk factors (a heart condition, diabetes or high blood pressure), physical activity, learning strategies to improve memory and thinking, and receiving and following advice on memory, health and diet.

In some areas, people with MCI are now routinely referred for regular sessions - sometimes called 'memory protection groups' - to support them with these changes.

Staying healthy

Get more information and advice on memory loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Staying healthy
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