The pace of walking and memory loss of an individual can now predict dementia accurately, according to a recent study.
A study involving nearly 27,000 older adults from five continents found that nearly one in 10 met the criteria for pre-dementia based on a simple test that measures how fast people walk and whether they have cognitive complaints.
People who tested positive for pre-dementia were twice as likely as others to develop dementia within 12 years.
A team of researchers of Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center led by Indian American Joe Verghese in a study titled “Motoric cognitive risk syndrome” said that in many clinical and community settings people don’t have access to the sophisticated tests-biomarker assays, cognitive tests or neuroimaging studies-used to diagnose people at risk for developing dementia.
The assessment method by the team could enable many more people to learn if they are at risk for dementia since it avoids the need for complex testing and doesn’t require that the test be administered by a neurologist, Verghese said.
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He emphasised that a slow gait alone is not sufficient for a diagnosis of MCR.
“Walking slowly could be due to conditions such as arthritis or an inner ear problem that affects balance, which would not increase risk for dementia. To meet the criteria for MCR requires having a slow gait and cognitive problems. An example would be answering ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Do you think you have more memory problems than other people?”.
For patients meeting MCR criteria, Verghese said the next step is to look for the causes of their slow gait and cognitive complaints. The search may reveal underlying—and controllable—problems.
“Evidence increasingly suggests that brain health is closely tied to cardiovascular health—meaning that treatable conditions such as hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes can interfere with blood flow to the brain and thereby increase a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” he said.
“Even in the absence of a specific cause, we know that most healthy lifestyle factors, such as exercising and eating healthier, have been shown to reduce the rate of cognitive decline,” said Verghese.
“In addition, our group has shown that cognitively stimulating activities—playing board games, card games, reading, writing and also dancing—can delay dementia’s onset,” he said.