How fast people walk may be a sign of dementia.
Many children, adolescents, and adults take walking for granted.
It is a skill often stumbled into during the first two years of life.
Although some people never have this ability, those who are able to walk may notice a change in their gate as they age.
According to a recent CNN article titled “Your walking speed could indicate dementia,” certain changes in walking patterns may point to the development of dementia.
It is believed cognitive decline is a result of shrinking of the right hippocampus in the brain.
This part of the brain is associated with memory.
Because dementia involves memory issues, the connection makes logical sense.
Even so, the National Institute on Aging states only between 10 percent and 20 percent of those age 65 or older with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), will develop dementia within a year.
In some cases, the symptoms of MCI may do more than remain the same.
They may even improve.
Although not all cognitive decline indicates future development of dementia, it is typically a precursor.
Are there other indicators of possible dementia development beyond MCI?
A recent study published in the journal JAMA Network Open and authored by Peninsula Clinical School at Monash University in Victoria research fellow Taya Collyer focused on walking gait as a factor.
This study was conducted for seven years on about 17,000 American adults over age 65 and Australian adults over age 70.
Researchers gave participants cognitive tests every other year to measure overall cognitive decline, verbal fluency, processing speed, and memory.
Twice every other year, participants were asked to walk three meters.
These two walk measurements were then averaged.
What were the findings?
Those who both showed signs of slower mental processing and walked about 5 percent or more slower each year had a greater likelihood of developing dementia than those with only one of these symptoms.
These individuals were called “dual decliners” in the study.
This aligns with a 2020 meta-analysis study of about 9,000 adults.
The analysis found that memory decline and walking speed can predict dementia.
What are ways you can support your brain as you age?
For starters, some studies have indicated aerobic exercise can support an increase in the size of the hippocampus.
Popular aerobic activities include dancing, brisk walking, running, and swimming.
Healthy choices may help your improve your walk speed, your memory, and your dementia risk.
I think that only makes sense.
Exercise pushes more oxygen throughout your body, to include inside the old noggin where the brain resides.
Reference: CNN (May 31, 2022) “Your walking speed could indicate dementia”