The speed at which you walk could indicate dementia, according to a large new study of nearly 17,000 adults over the age of 65

Walking more slowly with age has always been a warning sign of increasing frailty, which could lead to falls and other disabilities, experts say. Recent research in small groups of older subjects has also found that walking more slowly year over year can be an early sign of cognitive decline.

This may be due to shrinkage Right hippocampusthis is the part of the brain associated with memory, according to studies.

But not all signs of cognitive decline predict later dementia — only 10% to 20% of people age 65 and older with mild cognitive impairment or MCI will develop dementia over the next year National Institute on Aging. “In many cases, MCI symptoms can remain the same or even improve,” the institute notes.

Now, a large new study of nearly 17,000 adults over the age of 65 has found that people who walk about 5% slower or more each year, while showing signs of slower mental processing, are the most likely to develop dementia. The study was published Tuesday in the JAMA Network Open magazine.

“These results underscore the importance of gait in the risk assessment of dementia,” wrote corresponding author Taya Collyer, a research fellow at Monash University’s Peninsula Clinical School in Victoria, Australia.

“Double refusers” at highest risk

The new study followed a group of Americans over 65 and Australians over 70 for seven years. Every two years, study participants were asked to take cognitive tests that measured general cognitive decline, memory, processing speed and fluency.

Twice every two years, subjects were also asked to walk 3 meters, or about 10 feet. The two results were then averaged to determine the person’s typical gait.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that the highest risk of dementia was among “dual deniers,” meaning people who not only walked more slowly but also showed some signs of cognitive decline, said Dr. Joe Verghese, a professor of geriatrics and neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, who was not involved in the study.

“Furthermore, dual deniers had a higher risk of dementia than those who had either only gait or cognitive decline,” Verghese wrote in an accompanying editorial published in the JAMA-Journal Tuesday.

A dual association between walking speed and memory loss is predictive of later dementia, a Meta-Analysis 2020 found by nearly 9,000 American adults.

However, despite these results, “gait disturbance has not been considered an early clinical feature in patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” Verghese wrote.

exercise can help

There are things we can do as we age to reverse the brain shrinkage that accompanies typical aging. studies have found that aerobic exercise is the size of the hippocampusincrease some aspects of memory.

Located deep in the brain’s temporal lobe, the hippocampus is an oddly shaped organ responsible for learning, memory consolidation, and spatial navigation such as B. the ability to memorize directions, places and orientations.

Aerobic exercise training increased the volume of the right anterior hippocampus by 2%, thus reversing age-related loss of the organ by one to two years in a 2011 randomized clinical trial. In comparison, people who only did stretching had an approximate decrease of about 1.43% over the same period.

Aerobics means “with air” and is a type of exercise in which your heart rate and breathing increase, but not so much that you can no longer function. Types of aerobic exercise can include brisk walking, swimming, running, biking, dancing, and kickboxing, as well as any cardio equipment available at your local gym like a treadmill, elliptical trainer, rower, or stair climber.

The CNN Wire
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Laura Coffey

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