How fast you walk could be an early sign of dementia

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According to experts, slower walking with age has always been a warning sign of increasing frailty, which could lead to falls and other disabilities. Studies done with small groups of older adults have also concluded that a slower gait from year to year could be an early sign of cognitive decline.

It could be due to a narrowing of the right hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with memory, some say. research.

But not all signs of cognitive decline predict later dementia — only 10-20% of people aged 65 and over with mild cognitive impairment — or MCI — will develop dementia within the next year, according to the study. National Institute of Aging the United States. “In many cases, MCI symptoms may stay the same or even improve,” the institute says.

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, and who also show signs of slower mental processing, were more likely to develop dementia. The study was published tuesday in the review Open JAMA Network.

“These results highlight the importance of walking in assessing dementia risk”wrote corresponding author Taya Collyer, a researcher at the Peninsula Clinical School at Monash University in Victoria, Australia.

‘Double-decline people’ are more at risk

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

Twice every two years, participants were also asked to walk three meters. The two scores were averaged to determine the person’s typical gait.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that the highest risk of dementia was in “double decline people”, that is, people who not only walked more slowly but also showed signs of dementia. cognitive decline. Joe Verghese, professor of geriatrics and neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, who did not participate in the study.

“Additionally, people with dual decline had a higher risk of dementia than those with only gait or cognitive decline,” Verghese wrote in an accompanying op-ed Tuesday in the journal JAMA.

A dual association between walking speed and memory decline predicts later dementia, study finds. Meta-analysis 2020 of nearly 9,000 American adults.

However, despite these findings, “gait dysfunction was not 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 found that aerobic exercise increased the size of the hippocampus, increasing some aspects of memory.

Buried deep in the temporal lobe of the brain, the hippocampus is an oddly shaped organ that is responsible for learning, memory consolidation and spatial navigation, such as the ability to remember directions, locations and directions.

Aerobic exercise training increased right anterior hippocampal volume by 2%, reversing organ loss in one to two years in a 2011 Randomized Clinical Trial. In comparison, people who only did stretching exercises saw an approximate drop of about 1.43% over the same period.

Aerobic exercise means with “air”, and it’s a type of training where heart rate and breathing increase, but not so much that they can’t keep running. Types of aerobic exercise can include brisk walking, swimming, running, biking, dancing, and kickboxing, as well as any cardio machines in your gym, such as a treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine or a stair climber.

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