COPD and Mild Cognitive Impairment: What Does This Respiratory Disease Mean for Your Brain


COPD is a chronic respiratory disease that impairs your breathing capabilities, and due to the deprivation of oxygen, the disease will affect other aspects of your life beyond the function of your lungs. If your body cannot process the oxygen in the air enough for your body, parts of your brain will, in some cases, be affected by this.


This is not something that should frighten you, however, many people will chalk up forgetfulness to be associated with older age, or being too busy, or having too much on their mind. Every time you think to yourself, “Where did I put that” or “ What was I about to do?” you should also think about becoming more aware of what this means for you.


Especially if you have COPD, mindfulness and attention to details can go a long way in creating a more habitable living space both physically but also inside your mind.




Similarly to COPD, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) has no cure, however, there are ways you can work to prevent it from affecting you severely.


Cognition is associated with learning, memory, and thinking. So, cognition is about your language, memory, how you learn, reasoning, recognizing, and categorizing. It is how we see our environment and how we adapt to it. All of which will progress, change, and be affecting by time and your age.


However, if you have COPD, age may not be the main factor in your cognitive decline. Due to the symptoms associated with COPD there is a risk that you will experience MCI and other memory issues.


In general, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that causes minor problems with memory, focus, problem-solving, and attention. It happens to many people as they age, but respiratory diseases like COPD can both trigger and accelerate the condition.




If you experience forgetfulness or worry that your mind is not as “sharp” as it used to be, you are actually experiencing the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. However, MCI is slightly worse than the normal changes to memory and cognition you'd expect to see with age alone.


Mild cognitive impairment happens when your brain's cognitive functions are slightly lower than they should be. It can result from both temporary problems like oxygen deprivation and permanent changes that occur when you experience structural damage to your brain.


The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health journal suggests that mild cognitive impairment is very common, affecting about 10-20 percent of people over the age of 65 and about 36 percent of people with COPD.


Fortunately, mild cognitive impairment is a treatable, and sometimes even reversible, condition that can improve with diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.


How to improve Mild Cognitive Impairment





You need to exercise every day with COPD, we have talked about exercise in almost every blog post about COPD since the beginning of time. And while it does help to strengthen your lungs, exercise does more than that.


Many studies including work from the JAMA Network, suggests exercise can provide better blood flow to your brain releasing molecules that could repair your brain and prevent it from getting worse. By exercising, your body will release serotonin and endorphins that will help make you want to exercise more frequently, which is a very healthy cycle!






The National Center for Biotechnology Information published a study that concluded there are significant associations with the risk of MCI and a person’s diet. This means that a moderate intake of cooked white rice and an adequate intake of whole grains, fruits, milk, and dairy products were associated with reduced risks of MCI among adults aged over 50 years.


Having a diet rich in vitamins and minerals keeps our brain happy and allows you to be more active.


Mindfulness and Meditation:


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Medication and other mindfulness exercises can help calm your mind and allow you the space you need to keep things in perspective. Findings in a De Gruyter publishcation study recommended that there be future studies on meditation-based treatment for MCI and stress management because of how influential the practice was when used to treat these cognitive impairments, and more information should be processed to understand this phenomenon further.


Games and puzzles:




Engaging in mentally stimulating games and puzzles can make a huge difference in the prevention and treatment of MCI. Just like exercise for your muscles so they get stronger, it is important to work out the neurons in your brain. By doing mind games and puzzles, your brain will be able to make connections and you can work to keep those connections and neurons strong and firing.


COPD, MCI, and oxygen therapy




So the connection between COPD and MCI is very strong, and studies showed that patients with COPD had an increased risk for MCI by about 83 percent. These patients who had COPD for more than five years had a greatest risk for MCI.


The reason behind the connection is still not completely understood, and research suggests that COPD is associated with risk of MCI. The next step for researchers is to understand the exact mechanisms by which COPD increases the risk of MCI.


Until then, oxygen therapy, either by utilizing oxygen tanks or portable oxygen concentrators, can be beneficial for improving memory and other symptoms associated with COPD induced MCI.


If your blood oxygen saturation is below 90 percent, that means you're not getting enough oxygen to meet your body's needs and you likely need supplemental oxygen therapy. If you already use supplemental oxygen, experiencing mild cognitive impairment could be a sign that your oxygen prescription needs to change and you should discuss this with your doctor as soon as possible.




In this case, your doctor may decide to increase your oxygen dosage or instruct you to use supplemental oxygen more often. You might also need to start using oxygen while you sleep, since nighttime oxygen deprivation is a common cause of MCI.



Understanding COPD and MCI


If you have been diagnosed with COPD, it is crucial that you take daily notes of your symptoms and which aspects of your life are being affected. By understanding what is happening in your body and mind, you and your doctor, will be able to set up a treatment plan that is special for you whether that means beginning on oxygen therapy, or starting a pulmonary rehab course.


If you begin to realize that your memory or aspects of your cognition are worsening, this could be attributed to your COPD, and there are ways that you can begin to reverse or slow down mild cognitive impairment from advancing into a more severe state.


If you focus on treatments that will help your MCI, you are also working towards a healthier lifestyle with COPD. These treatments over-lap, like eating brain healthy foods, exercising regularly, meditating, and doing puzzles and playing mind games, while also being prudent to use supplemental oxygen therapy will all contribute to slowing down the progression of both COPD and MCI.


COPD and Mild Cognitive Impairment


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