Research links slow walking in middle-age with later dementia
How fast you walk and how strong your grip is in middle-age could predict the chances that you'll develop dementia or have a stroke. Researchers say the two tests can be easily performed in a doctor's office to predict a person’s future health risks.
Middle-age people with slow walking speed were found to be 1 ½ times more likely to develop dementia in the future, compared to people with faster walking speed.
Erica C. Camargo, MD, MSc, PhD, with Boston Medical Center said in a press release frailty among elderly people is associated with dementia.
The researchers wanted to see if declines in physical performance during middle age could also provide insight into whether a person would develop stroke or dementia later in life.
The study, released by the American Academy of Neurology, looked at 2400 men and women whose average age was 62. Study participants underwent tests that included how fast they could walk, cognitive function in grip strength. The participants also had brain scans.
During the 11 year follow-up 34 people develop dementia and 70 had a stroke.
Walking slower was linked to less brain volume, poorer memory and lower scores on language and in decision-making tests.
People over age 65 with stronger hand grip in mid-life had a 42% lower chance of having a TIA (transient ischemic attack) – also known as a ‘mini stroke’ – compared to those with weaker hand grip. The finding didn’t correlate for people under age 65 however. Stronger hand grip was also linked to the ability to recognize similarities in objects and greater cerebral brain volume.
The researchers aren’t sure how being able to walk fast in middle age correlates with future dementia. It may be that diseases of the brain could cause decreased strength and slow walking before obvious symptoms appear.
American Academy of Neurology 64th Annual Meeting
February 15, 2012
Image credit: Morguefile