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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 65-71

The borderland between normal aging and dementia

Memory and Aging Center, Department of Neurology, Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital and Tzu Chi University, Hualien, Taiwan

Correspondence Address:
Raymond Y Lo
Memory and Aging Center, Department of Neurology, Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital, 707, Section 3, Chung.Yang Road, Hualien
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: DOI: 10.4103/tcmj.tcmj_18_17

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Alzheimer's disease (AD) has become a global health issue as the population ages. There is no effective treatment to protect against its occurrence or progression. Some argue that the lack of treatment response is due to delays in diagnosis. By the time a diagnosis of AD is made, neurodegenerative changes are at the stage where very few neurons can be salvaged by medication. The AD research community has developed the idea of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in an attempt to find predementia patients who might benefit from potentially therapeutic drugs that have proven ineffective in the past. However, MCI is heterogeneous in terms of its underlying pathology and practicality for predicting dementia. This article first reviews the conceptual evolution of MCI as the borderland between normal aging and dementia, and then proposes that built environment and sociocultural context are two key elements in formulating a diagnosis of dementia. Dementia is more than a biomedical term. Cognitive impairment is considered a dynamic outcome of how an individual interacts with cognitive challenges. To focus on amyloid deposition as a single etiology for AD does not adequately capture the social implications and geriatric aspects of dementia. Moreover, MCI is nosologically questionable. Unlike a diagnosis of AD, for which a prototype has been well established, MCI is defined by operational criteria and there are no cases seen as typical MCI. Biofluid and imaging markers are under active development for early detection of amyloid deposition and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, whereas vascular risks, chronic medical diseases, and polypharmacy continue to add to the complexity of dementia in old age. The paradigm of dementia care policy may shift to early diagnosis of AD pathology and comprehensive care for chronic diseases in the elderly population.

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