Walking slower at an older age could be a warning sign for dementia, a major study notes

Slow gait at an older age could be a sign of dementia, a study finds, as part of the brain that controls rhythm begins to shrink.

  • U.S. and Australian scientists have tracked 17,000 over-65s over seven years
  • They found that people who walked five percent slower a year and had a cognitive decline were most likely to develop dementia.
  • Scientists said walking tests should be included in tests for dementia
  • About five million Americans have the debilitating disease, estimates suggest

Walking more slowly in old age could be a warning sign for dementiaa major study has suggested.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Monash University, Australia, monitored people over 75 years of age and found that those who lost 0.05 meters a second of their rate each year and had signs of mental decline were most at risk.

The international team said this is likely because when the brain declines in the debilitating condition, it also affects the areas involved in walking.

About five million Americans have dementia, estimates suggest there are no cures for the condition, only treatments that can alleviate symptoms.

The graph above shows the effect of dementia (y-axis) since the study began in four groups. These are double declining (dark blue line) people who have had a slower pace and knowledge, people with cognitive decline (orange), people with only a slower pace (blue line) and people with none of the conditions (green line).

Scientists say walking about five percent slower a year in old age could be a warning sign of dementia (Stock Photo)

Scientists say walking about five percent slower a year in old age could be a warning sign of dementia (Stock Photo)

How can walking speed indicate a risk of dementia?

A growing body of studies suggests that how fast someone walks in later life may indicate whether they have dementia.

In the latest article – by American and Australian scientists – experts found that a decrease in walking speed of 0.05 m / s or more per year coupled with a cognitive decline was a warning sign of dementia.

Scientists say the link is likely to be because areas that are declining in dementia are also involved in walking.

This means that when they are damaged by the disease, sufferers also experience problems walking.

About five million Americans have dementia, estimates suggest.

The study – published on Tuesday in JAMA Network Open – tracked a group of more than 15,000 seniors for nearly a decade.

In the paper the cognition and gait speed of 17,000 older adults has been tracked for seven years.

Participants were Americans and Australians, mostly female, and of white background.

Scientists measured knowledge every 24 months by tests of memory loss, processing speed, and oral fluency.

Walking speed was checked twice every two years by measuring the pace of participants as they walked 10 feet.

People who were “double declining” – had walks that slowed down a year and declining cognition – were most likely diagnosed with dementia.

A drop in walking speed was defined as losing 0.05 meters per second or more of the normal speed – at about 1.2 to 1.4 – annually.

This group saw about 178 cases detected, or 11.3 percent of their total number of participants.

For comparison, those who showed no decrease in cognition or gait, the rate at which someone walked, were less likely to have the disease with only 25 participants diagnosed (0.3 percent).

The scientists also looked at participants who had decreases in gait speed and cognition only.

This showed that the former had a similar risk of the disease to those with no decrease (27 cases, or one percent). In the latter group there were 158 cases diagnosed, equivalent to 3.9 percent of the group.

The scientists analyzed the data last year, with the tests declining between 2010 and 2017.

Dr. Taya Collyer, a biostatistician at Monash University who led the study, and others said: “It is possible that step measures are catching up [brain] domains that are required (in addition to memory impairment) for a dementia diagnosis.

– Association between [brain] domains, such as processing speed and word fluency, with pacing were explained by the crossover in the underlying networks or pathology. ‘

The team also said their findings underscored the need to include walking tests when trying to diagnose a patient with dementia.

They said: “These findings highlight the importance of stepping in a dementia risk assessment.

‘They suggest that a double decrease in step speed and memory measurement may be the best combination to assess a future decline.’


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