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04/24/2014 08:22 am ET | Updated Apr 24, 2014

Memory Loss May Increase Risk Of Death, Study Reveals

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Mild cognitive decline can make day-to-day life more difficult for older adults. But a new study says age-related thinking problems and memory loss may actually be linked to death.

Mayo Clinic researchers on Wednesday released the results of a study illustrating a link between mild cognitive impairment and death. The study followed 862 adults, ages 70 to 89, with MCI and 1,292 without in order to track how likely people with MCI were to die during the course of the study.

Over the six years of the study, subjects with either of two types of MCI were a staggering 80 percent more likely to die than those without any MCI. Among those, subjects that had MCI with memory loss were nearly 20 percent more likely to die than those who had MCI without memory loss.

MCI affects somewhere between 10 to 20 percent of the population over 65 years old, according to the Alzheimer's Association. "Currently there is little information about death and the types of memory loss that affect many millions of Americans," study author Maria Vassilaki said in a release. "Exploring how memory may or may not be linked with the length of a person's life has tremendous significance as the population ages."

Though sufferers are also known to be more likely to develop Alzheimer's and other dementias than non-sufferers, research has shown steps taken in midlife can help. One study found that exercise in midlife led to a 39 percent reduction in developing MCI later on in life. Other studies have shown diet may play a role, and that consumption of omega-3 rich fish can have a protective effect on men, postponing cognitive decline.

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