Individuals who suffer problems associated with walking such as reduced speed, imbalance, among others, can be at an significant risk of developing decline in memory and thinking, a study has found.
Walking is part of the complex cognitive task known as gait that includes everything from a person’s stride length to the accompanying swing of each arm.
Previous studies have reported that slower gait speed might predict cognitive impairment and dementing illnesses, supporting the role of gait speed as a possible subclinical marker of cognitive impairment.
In the study, researchers from Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, US, used a non-invasive computerised gait analysis test that could identify patients at high risk for cognitive decline and to target appropriate therapies.
They measured gait parameters, such as stride length, ambulatory time, gait speed, step count, cadence, stance time, arm swing on each patients.
The results showed that alterations in several of the gait parameters were associated with decline in memory, thinking and language skills, and visual perception of the spatial relationship of objects.
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“The presence of gait disturbances increases with advancing age and affects the independence of daily living, especially in the elderly,” said lead author Rodolfo Savica, neurologist at Mayo Clinic.
For the study, the researchers analysed 3,426 cognitively normal participants who were between ages 70 to 89.
The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.