Unexpected sign of Alzheimer’s may help predict it
Studies have found an unexpected link between physical coordination and cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s.
As reported by The New York Times, five studies presented at the Vancouver International Conference in Canada last month provided evidence that when a person’s rate of walking gets slower or becomes less controlled, her cognitive functions are in decline. The studies demonstrated that cognitive skills like memory, planning activities, and processing information decline nearly parallel to the ability to walk fluidly.
Experts believe that signs of problems with gait may actually predate cognitive decline and lead to simpler tools to diagnose or predict Alzheimer’s disease.
These latest studies were larger scale than previous research and involved sophisticated methods to measure gait changes, according to the Times. A few of these involved a test on an electronic walkway that could detect small variances in walking speed, step cadence, width of stride and how often the person’s stride changed.
People with arthritis and other physical impairments were screened out. The studies found that when cognitive tests are administered during the walking test those with cognitive decline begin to have trouble walking.
Aside from suggesting that walking may provide early clues that dementia is on its way, the studies may reinforce the possibility that physical activity could help stave off dementia. This new understanding can also help doctors approach Alzheimer’s from a different direction, and catch the disease earlier on.
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