MCI is scary. It wants to be scary. It wants to be the bogeyman under the bed.
A big part of my mission is to demystify mild cognitive impairment, to help people really understand what it is and what they can do about it — because these days, there’s a lot that can be done.
That’s why I was so pleased to be a guest on radio show “Alzheimer’s Speaks” to talk about mild cognitive impairment and my new book, “I Want My Brain Back: The Go Cogno Approach to Halt or Reverse Mild Cognitive Impairment.”
Lori La Bey, the host of the show, has been honored by everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Dr. Oz for the work she’s doing. She asked great questions and we covered a lot of ground during the hour-long interview. I want to share the full interview with you today. To listen, click on the play button (the white arrow) in the black box above. After a brief intro, Lori’s interview with me begins at the 5:00 mark.
If you just want the highlights, here are some segments I’d recommend you listen to.
Understanding what MCI is (at the 13:47 mark)
Even now, when many people are diagnosed with MCI, they’ve never heard of it.
Summary quote: “Even now, when many people are diagnosed with MCI, they’ve never heard of it. We still see situations where the doctor hasn’t heard of it. To help people understand, I tell them, “Think of it like a fever. Your normal body temperature is around 98. If you take your temperature and it’s 100 or 101, you have a fever. That’s not normal. Something has gone wrong there. Mild cognitive impairment is that way. It’s a measure of your memory where you’re tested and properly evaluated and your memory has slipped. It’s not in the normal range. But fever is not a disease. It’s an indicator. What you and your doctor need to figure out is, why do you have a fever? What’s causing your fever? And MCI is the same way. Something is causing that. Something has gone wrong in your mind and you and your doctor want to figure that out and see how you can address it.”
When someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and then later, the doctors says, “No, you’ve got MCI” (at the 23:08 mark)
Summary quote: “I can tell you as someone who comes in contact with thousands of people with MCI, I have seen many people who, it wasn’t that they were diagnosed with MCI and progressed to dementia. They were diagnosed with dementia, and then when they weren’t getting worse, they were downgraded to MCI. Obviously, that’s encouraging because at the MCI stage, there is still pretty good potential to slow it down, or even halt it. You’ve got a real chance at that stage to go after it aggressively, make some changes in your life, and possibly get a better outcome.”
The biggest issues I see with how MCI is being diagnosed and treated (at the 33:34 mark)
There’s a lot you can do for yourself, and you want to do that now, right away.
Summary quote: “I see three things that are really concerning. The first is when it’s poorly diagnosed, or poorly explained. The physician doesn’t have enough training in that area and isn’t certain of the diagnosis, or just doesn’t explain it. The second concern is that there still are a lot of doctors who haven’t been educated in the recent developments and the most common message goes along these lines, ‘Not much we can do. We just have to wait and see. Come back and see me in a year.’ That’s always been a disservice to people with MCI, but it’s never been more wrong. There’s a lot that can be done about it. There’s a lot you can do for yourself, and you want to do that now, right away. You don’t want to wait. And there are possible treatments. I think the third thing is that someone who has been diagnosed at the MCI stage really needs to be referred to a specialist in memory and cognition unless their primary care doctor has real expertise in those areas, and most don’t. We’ve got to get that person to a specialist who really knows this stuff and can really help turn them around.”
Not allowing MCI to be the “bogeyman under the bed” (at the 40:12 mark)
The reality is, you’re going to have to make some changes in your life.
Summary quote: “It’s about giving people a very positive message that you’ve caught it in time when you still have an opportunity to do something about it, and you can go after it aggressively. MCI really wants to be the bogeyman under the bed. It wants to be this vague, ominous, threatening thing that you know very little about and that you feel you are in the clutches of. But it’s a medical indicator that has underlying causes that can be identified and treated. And the reality is, you’re probably going to have to make some changes in your life, but they’re going to benefit you in the long run. “
The importance of identifying your “No. 1” (at the 54:37 mark)
We all have vulnerabilities, and something is contributing more than other things.
Summary quote: “We all have vulnerabilities, and something is contributing more than other things. People say, ‘But I did exercise, and I eat healthy, and I still got MCI. A lot of good that did me.’ But no, these are not your betrayers. These are your assets. You’d be far worse off if you didn’t have these strengths. But something else is your vulnerability. Could it be that you’re not dealing with the stress in your life? Could it be a sleep disorder? Could it be a vitamin deficiency? Usually, it’s not one thing. It’s a combination of things. But it’s a different combination for every person. The people who make the real progress aren’t the ones who looked for what worked for someone else, or who are looking for this elusive thing that they think is going to work for everybody. It’s really understanding, what is your unique vulnerability? If you can understand that, and focus on that, you may be able to make the progress you haven’t been able to make, and you’re not sure why.