Every three seconds, a person is diagnosed with this
Slow walker? You may be at an increased risk of developing dementia.
That’s according to recent research published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In the study, nearly 4,000 participants 60 years of age or older were observed between 2002-2015.
Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia, per the Alzheimer’s Disease International. As such, researchers sought to determine the relationship between walking speed and cognitive function, as well as the interaction of changes in these measures and dementia risk.
The findings: slower walking speed and a greater decline in walking speed over time were associated with a greater risk of developing dementia.
“Walking is a complex process. Although it is largely automatic, walking also relies on sensory feedback and higher order cognitive processing,” says Dr. Malgorzata Bach, neurologist at the Advocate Memory Center at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “In other words, walking and cognition rely on similar brain regions, namely the prefrontal cortex.”
Dr. Bach points to an interesting finding in the study: “The interaction between walking speed and cognitive function was not a significant predictor of dementia, which suggests that a decline in walking speed and a decline in cognition are independent predictors of dementia – they do not work synergistically.”
She says that although further research is required to determine whether an increase in walking speed can reduce dementia risk, the findings may have some implications for efforts to delay dementia onset.
“Meta-analysis of 42 studies examining the effects of three exercise interventions on walking speed suggested that exercise can lead to increases in walking speed of up to 9.3 percent,” Dr. Bach says.
To find out more information on memory disorders, cognitive changes and the advantages of early evaluation, visit the Advocate Memory Center.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.