Newswise — PHILADELPHIA – One of the first studies to look at a relationship between death and the two types of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or problems with memory and thinking abilities, suggests that people who have thinking problems but their memory is still intact might have a higher death rate in a period of six years compared to those who have no thinking or memory problems. The research was released today and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 26 to May 3, 2014. The same was suggested in the study for those who are experiencing MCI with memory decline; however the first group had the highest death rate.

MCI is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. There are two main types of MCI. In one type, the most noticeable symptom is memory loss. In people with the other type, language, attention, decision-making and other abilities are declining, but memory is still intact.

“Currently there is little information about death and the types of memory loss that affect many millions of Americans,” said study author Maria Vassilaki, MD, with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Exploring how memory may or may not be linked with the length of life a person has is of tremendous significance as the population ages.”

For the study, 862 people with thinking problems and 1,292 with no thinking problems between the ages of 70 and 89 were followed for nearly six years. Participants were from Olmsted County, Minn., and were given tests at the start of the study and every 15 months to assess their thinking abilities.

Over six years, 331 of the group with MCI and 224 of the group without MCI died. Those who had either type of MCI had an 80 percent higher death rate during the study than those without MCI.

People with MCI with no memory loss had more than twice the death rate during the study than those without MCI, while people with MCI with memory loss had a 68 percent higher death rate during the study than those without MCI.

“We will continue to study the how and why regarding the relationship between memory decline, thinking decline and death. This research brings us one step at a time closer to the answers.” said Vassilaki.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

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The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 27,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

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Editor’s Note:Dr. Vassilaki will present her findings at 7:30 a.m. ET, on Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in Room Hall E of the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

Dr. Vassilaki is available for advance interviews as well. Please contact Rachel Seroka, [email protected], to schedule an advance interview.

To access Non-Emerging Science abstracts to be presented at the 2014 AAN Annual Meeting, visit Emerging Science abstracts are embargoed until 12:01a.m., ET, Friday, April 25, 2014, unless otherwise noted by the Academy’s Media and Public Relations Department.

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66th American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting