Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may increase of the risk of contracting Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. That is according to a recent study published in the March issue of JAMA Neurology, “A Prospective Study of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and the Risk for Mild Cognitive Impairment.”
The study, which followed 1,425 cognitively normal individuals aged 70 to 89, used interviews and neurologic exams to identify the incidence of two types of MCI: amnestic MCI (A-MCI) and non-amnestic MCI (NA-MCI). A baseline was established at the beginning of the study, with interviews and exams occurring every 15 months thereafter.
Researchers found that nearly 25% of the study group developed some incidence of MCI. However, a COPD diagnosis significantly increased the risk for NA-MCI by 83%. In addition, researchers discovered that those individuals with a long-term COPD diagnosis were at the greatest risk of developing MCI, with patients who have a diagnosis of five years or longer being at the greatest risk of developing either form.
While little research has been done around the effect of COPD on cognitive impairment, researchers now believe that the blockage of airflow in COPD patients can lead to MCI. A progressive and treatable disease characterized by chronic limitation of the air ducts, COPD eventually leads to the development of hypoxemia and hypercapnia, as well as serious complications for patients.
Researchers note that these findings “highlight the importance of COPD as a risk factor for MCI and may provide a substrate for early intervention to prevent or delay the onset and progression of MCI, particularly NA-MCI.”