By Cara Murez, HealthDay News

A diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, might worry an older adult, who could see it as a stepping stone to dementia.   But a new study suggests one does not necessarily lead to the other.  In fact, nearly half of seniors tracked in the study — all of who had been diagnosed with issues in memory and thinking and received an MCI diagnosis — no longer had the condition a few years later.

The study was conducted to help better understand what factors might be important to a person’s risk for dementia.

“We wanted to gain more knowledge about the earliest stages of dementia, as a potential time window for dementia prevention or intervention strategies,” said study lead author Jennifer Manly, a professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University in New York City.

She said the study was conducted among a diverse group of Americans. Among the modifiable risks that predicted a lower risk of developing MCI, researchers found that having more years of education and taking part in more leisure activities like reading, visiting a friend or going for a walk could make a difference. So, too, could a higher income. Specifically, those who had more education or participated in more leisure activities were 5% less likely to develop MCI.   Predictors that increased the risk of someone with MCI developing dementia included the use of antidepressants, having symptoms of depression, having the particular gene that increases Alzheimer’s risk and having MCI that affects several aspects of thinking skills, including memory, language and spatial skills.   About 18% of those who used antidepressants developed dementia, compared to 7% who continued to have MCI and 6% of those who no longer met the criteria for MCI, the findings showed.