Research links slow walking in middle-age with later dementia

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Slow walking in mid-life might predict dementia later.

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



Older people are more prone to problems affecting legs, hips, knee's e.g. arthritis and rheumatism etc and as a result we can't walk as fast as we did a decade or so ago. We are also prone to the occasional memory lapse. It's called getting OLD. Dementia also is more common in the elderly. It therefore follows that it really doesn't take a genius to relate age problems to dementia. This is just another piece of so called research stating the blindingly obvious probably for no other reason than to get the authors name in print.
Except the people studied were middle-age, not elderly. The study highlights the importance of taking care of your health throughout life. Arthritis, rheumatism and other diseases, though more common with aging, can be controlled with diet and exercise, by keeping body weight normal and taking prescribed medications. It shows how frailty, even at a younger age, can have an impact later in life. Age is only one of the factors that contribute to arthritis - genes, previous injury, excess weight, high level sports and infection like gout contribute. We have tools we can use to stay active, strong and healthier as we age, but the problem is, too many people think aging brings inevitable health declines. We're learning that's a false assumption.
Who pays these researchers? Every day we are told contradicting advice. Die being yourself not how others tell you to behave - you'd be inundated with facts, figures and statistics which would send you mental (have they studied that). Peace, Love and enjoy your family.