The way we walk is an indicator of how fast our brains, as well as our bodies, are ageing.
In a special supplement in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists reported that gait disorders, particularly slowing gait, should be considered a marker of future cognitive decline. They also proposed testing motor performance as well as cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.
“There is an emerging focus on the importance of assessing motor performance as well as cognitive performance to predict cognitive function loss,” explained guest editor Dr Manuel Montero-Odasso from the University of Western Ontario.
“In the past two decades, large epidemiological studies have shown that gait disorders, particularly slowing gait, may be present at early stages of dementia or may even predict who will be at risk of progressing to dementia.
“Subtle impairments in gait are more prevalent in older adults with cognitive impairments and dementia and are also associated with an increased risk of falls.”
Gait testing may help to detect the subgroup of at-risk patients who may benefit the most from invasive diagnostic procedures or early interventions.
“Finding early dementia detection methods is vital,” added Dr Montero-Odasso.
“It is conceivable that in the future we will be able to make the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias before people even have significant memory loss.
“In older adults with moderate cognitive impairment, slowing down their usual walking by more than 20 per cent when they add a cognitive task is indicative of a seven-fold increased risk to develop Alzheimer’s Disease in a five-year timeframe.
“We believe that gait, as a complex brain-motor task, provides a golden window of opportunity to detect individuals at higher risk of dementia who can benefit the most from more invasive testing or early interventions.”
Have you noticed your walking pace slowing as you’ve aged? Does this give you cause for concern?
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