Subjective Cognitive Impairment (SCI) refers to a decline in cognitive function that is self-observed. In most cases, people realize they suffer from forgetfulness, losing train of thought or an inability to recall memories. It’s called “subjective” because the issues have not yet been noticed by others or found on a standardized test.
Paying close attention to SCI is important as it could be an early warning sign of the onset of mild cognitive impairment. However, it’s also important to know that is not always the case. And even if it is, you can take steps to slow age-related cognitive decline.
Subjective cognitive impairment is sometimes referred to as subjective cognitive decline. It has emerged in recent years as more widespread knowledge about dementia has led to more people self-reporting a slip in cognitive health, according to a 2020 study published in The Lancet.
The Importance of SCI For Cognitive Health
Cognition involves thinking and other brain-related processes involved with learning, remembering, making judgements, and organizing information. Mild cognitive impairment impacts many older people, and it is considered the first clinical manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease.
SCI is important because many of the earliest signs of cognitive issues will not get detected by those around you or even through formal neuropsychological testing. People know best if they are experiencing repeated instances of cognitive issues such as forgetfulness or memory loss.
According to information from Cedars Sinai, some of the signs of SCI are much like those associated with mild cognitive impairment. They include increasing forgetfulness, losing a train of thought, feeling overwhelmed when making decisions or planning, and depression. They added “these symptoms don’t often significantly affect a patient’s daily activities.”
Research on the issue is ongoing. A study of the research literature by the University of San Paulo in Brazil found that several epidemiological studies show an increased risk of dementia among those with SCI.
However, researchers noted that “Alzheimer’s disease is not the only cause of subjective cognitive decline and various other conditions can be associated with subjective memory complaints, such as depression or even normal aging.”
Studies referenced by Very Well Health found that those with SCI were three times as likely to develop dementia, typically about six years later. However, other studies found SCI is more the result of mood and is not a reliable precursor of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.
While research continues on SCI, experts agree that for anyone who experiences signs of SCI, it’s important to communicate the issue to your physician.
Risk Factors For SCI
Risk factors for developing SCI include many of those associated with developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia. They include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of exercise and not engaging in mentally or socially stimulating activities. Another risk factor is living alone. Of those in the United States who experience SCI, 29.3% live alone.
If you notice signs of cognitive issues, do not be alarmed! It could simply be the normal issues associated with cognitive decline as you age. The first step is to contact your doctor and set up an appointment. Even if SCI ends up being a forerunner to more serious issues, there are many steps you can take to improve the situation.
For example, you can turn to neuropsychological counseling. Neuropsychologists specialize in treating the emotional and cognitive aspects of SCI. They can assist with incorporating brain stimulating activities in your life, including exercises, puzzles, and social activities. Moreover, Physical health and changes in diet can directly impact cognitive health.