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Mild cognitive impairment

What is it?

Mild cognitive impairment is memory loss that is not a normal part of ageing. It affects up to 20% of people aged 65 years or older. You may notice your mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be. People who are close to you may notice this, too. Mood changes are also common.

Mild cognitive impairment can be caused by many factors, such as infection and medication side effects. In some cases it may resolve by itself. Your GP will work with you to make a plan.

Around 10-15% of people will go on to have dementia. There is no cure for dementia, but there are healthy lifestyle changes that can help support your brain health as you age. Your GP can talk to you about these changes and your options.



  • Common Symptoms

  • Forgetting things more often than usual

  • Losing your train of thought

  • Feeling overwhelmed by making decisions

  • Struggling to follow instructions

  • Being more impulsive than you normally are

What will my GP do now?

Your GP may assess your health and try to find the cause of your symptoms. They may aim to exclude any other issues. Some medications and side effects can make brain function worse. Your GP may review what you are taking and suggest other options. Your GP may also arrange tests to check your brain function.


What will my GP do in the future?

Your GP may want to see you every six to 12 months to check your health and symptoms. If your symptoms are not getting any better, or if you get more symptoms, your GP may suggest tests or refer you to a specialist. If you are worried about your brain health, you can always see your GP earlier.

Your GP may also talk to you about dementia and advance care planning.


What can I do?

Living a healthy lifestyle will help you to keep your brain healthy. One of the best things you can do is to work out at least twice a week. Looking after your health as you age is vital. Some things you can do include:

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Limit drinking and quit smoking
  • Stay social, and see people close to you
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get eight hours of sleep each night
  • Reduce stress
  • Train your brain with puzzles and quizzes, or by learning a new skill (like a language or an instrument)
  • Have check-ups with your GP
  • Keep your blood pressure within the normal range

What questions could I ask my doctor?

  • How can I maintain my brain function?
  • What medicine(s) do I need to stop taking?
  • Will I develop dementia?
  • What might be causing my cognitive impairment?
  • Am I at risk of any other complications?
  • How much exercise should I do every day?

Where can I learn more?

  • Better Health Channel

    Dementia: Safety Issues

  • Dementia Australia

    Mild Cognitive Impairment

  • Dementia Care International

    Home page

  • Dementia Collaborative Research Centre

    A Guide for Family Carers: Dealing with Behaviours in People with Dementia

  • Dementia Support Australia

    Home Page

  • TEDGlobal

    How I’m Preparing to Get Alzheimer’s

Important: This information is to be viewed by someone who has received a diagnosis from their doctor. It is not designed to be used to diagnose a condition or as a substitute for ongoing medical care.

Health Resource Directory factsheets are endorsed by South Western Sydney PHN’s Community Advisory Committee and local GPs

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