What dementia sufferers reveal in their walk

Study focuses on an everyday practice that could show start of disease.

Need for speed with Alzheimer’s

If your walking speed – or your partner’s – has slowed in recent times, you might want to get out the whip. No joke.

As researchers worldwide race to uncover a treatment to combat Alzheimer’s, studies investigating what causes the condition continue to roll in.

Science Daily reports that in 2015, nearly 47 million people around the world had dementia, with the most common cause, though not the only one, being Alzheimer's disease.

As there is no cure for dementia, and with an ageing population boosting the number of sufferers annually, risk factors are of enormous interest.

Researchers say they have learnt that older adults with slower walking speeds show a greater likelihood of developing dementia than those with faster walking speeds.

A research group from the United Kingdom studied changes in walking speed in relation to the ability to think and make decisions as well as dementia, and has published its findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The research paper, Walking Speed, Cognitive Function, and Dementia Risk in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, followed about 4000 adults aged 60 and older who lived in England and analysed information collected between 2002 and 2015.

“They assessed participants' walking speed on two occasions in 2002-2003 and in 2004-2005, and whether or not the participants developed dementia after the tests from 2006-2015,” Science Daily website reports. “Then, they compared the people who had developed dementia with those who had not.”

Researchers discovered that those with a slower walking speed had a greater risk of developing dementia. And those who experienced a faster decline in walking speed over a two-year period were also at higher risk of dementia.

People who had a poorer ability to think and make decisions when they entered the study – and those whose cognitive (thinking) abilities declined more quickly during the study – were also more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

The researchers concluded that older adults with slower walking speeds and those who experienced a greater decline in their walking speed over time were at increased risk of dementia.

Dementia Australia reports that the symptoms of Alzheimer's can be very subtle in the early stages. These symptoms often begin with lapses in memory and difficulty in finding the right words for everyday objects.

Other symptoms may include:

  • persistent and frequent memory difficulties, especially of recent events
  • vagueness in everyday conversation
  • apparent loss of enthusiasm for previously enjoyed activities
  • taking longer to do routine tasks
  • forgetting well-known people or places
  • inability to process questions and instructions
  • deterioration of social skills
  • emotional unpredictability.

Have you had first-hand experience of someone with dementia? Have you got any advice?

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    COMMENTS

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    Tib
    28th Mar 2018
    11:24am
    I walk slowly, because I'm enjoying the day. :)
    FrankC
    28th Mar 2018
    12:22pm
    I agree4 Tib. When you're working you have limited time to do things that need doing, but once you've retired, you have heaps of time, so, what's the rush.

    28th Mar 2018
    4:55pm
    Life causes dementia.
    VicCherikoff
    25th Apr 2018
    9:46am
    No. Actually our diets cause it as well as many other mental diseases and a host of the diseases of nutrition. We need to eat more wild and near-wild foods and reduce the consumption of processed and farmed rubbish foods.

    It all goes back to sterile soils, plant breeding and post harvest handling of vast quantities of produce (a lot wasted) for too many people on the planet.

    Perhaps dementia is Nature's way of telling us to smarten up.
    Blossom
    11th Dec 2018
    6:01pm
    If you grow your vegetables in soil that has had natural fertilizer and compost added and no chemicals added it should be healthy apart from may be in the water and air.
    Cheezil61
    3rd Dec 2019
    9:11pm
    I agree that life (particularly modern life) causes dementia & fact of life is we all have to work (or most of us do) & working causes dementia via stress, lack of sleep, lack of time to exercise properly, lack of time for social skills & doing puzzles, lack of time for growing own vegetables (as mentioned here by Blosom or VicChrikoff) lack of time for looking after our own health, lack of time to do the things we enjoy, lack of happiness! Bring on early retirement rather than later retirement when it is too late & too hard to remain healthy in mind & body!
    Aussie
    28th Mar 2018
    4:59pm
    Yeahh I walk slow so I do not fall off when I enjoy looking at nice ladies walking around he he he he he ..... some even return my smile and that feel good ... make you live one more day in a happy mood ..... Great ..... so walk slow and enjoy the views and nice warm/cold weather ... whatever you like

    31st Mar 2018
    2:24am
    Not really walking slower... but that pain in the upper right chest from a near air strike with napalm sure slows me down after a few yards...

    Generally I walk fast, but.... oh well..
    SKRAPI
    3rd Aug 2018
    4:32pm
    I like 2 walk fast if I"m not tired . I can enjoy slow with good Co. Yes diet & exercise R major factors Re Dementia . But life 2 if U have / had a lot of stress. If U R a carer try 2 get enough rest , But what patients need most is familiar faces & places esp. loved ones & they need communication I know it's very hard but they need 2 to feel valued or that they R contributing . in some way .
    ronloby
    25th Nov 2018
    8:37am
    What is the use in racing around when one has ALL day to do not much! I had a job that caused me to work at the same speed day in day out so now I slow down to a speed I can last all day at.
    Ted Wards
    23rd Sep 2019
    12:03pm
    Yeah think most of you didn't get the point. Its not about choosing to walk slower to enjoy stuff, its about losing the ability to walk at a reasonable pace. Usually its because the person has become sedentary and basically the older you get, the less you do, the more you will lose. It is a myth that ageing means getting sick and slowing down, we are programmed by the media etc about ageing so we live it. If you get ill, it's your lifestyle choices that are causing it. Too many real studies that show our lifestyle choices are making us sick.
    Mez
    21st Nov 2019
    12:03pm
    Yes, it's all in the mind And your body follows suit!
    I am a fast walker from many years of nursing which I still do once a fortnight and from having to walk 2 km to primary school in Dromana in the 50's!
    Susanne
    28th Nov 2019
    12:29pm
    walking slowly can come from sore back or other physical cause so please don' scare monger
    Susanne
    28th Nov 2019
    12:29pm
    walking slowly can come from sore back or other physical cause so please don' scare monger
    Muttonbird
    13th Feb 2020
    4:52pm
    But is it chicken or egg? Slow walkers might have deterioration in their brains that are not yet obvious in other ways.


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