Cognition refers to the functioning of the brain. Since the brain is an organ, it is susceptible to disease and injury, which can result in cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment can be said to occur when an individual has difficulty with remembering, learning new tasks, making decisions, or concentrating.
Cognitive impairment can be either mild or severe, occurring on a spectrum. Much cognitive impairment occurs simply as the result of age. Many older adults experience mild cognitive impairment (MCI), an intermediate stage somewhere between normal aging and the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is one of the best-known forms of cognitive impairment, impacting memory and body functions. It is estimated that as many as 5.1 million Americans over the age of 65 currently suffer from Alzheimer's, a number that is expected to jump to 13.2 million by 2050.
Individuals suffering from cognitive impairment require about three times as many hospitalizations than individuals without any impairment. Unfortunately, there is no known single cause of cognitive impairment, but there are common signs. Memory loss, repeating the same question or story, being unable to recognize familiar people or places, as well as difficulty in carrying out tasks, are all signs of cognitive impairment. There are no cures for cognitive impairment. Individuals are encouraged to maintain an active lifestyle, including keeping healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.