It's nice to slow down and savor the moment but according to a recent study, slow walking could predict pre-dementia.
The study led by Dr. Joe Verghese, professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, involved almost 27,000 older adults and found that measuring walking speed can predict pre-dementia. The results were published in Neurology.
One in nine people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's disease according to the CDC. This number is expected to double in the coming years as a result of the aging population. This test measures motoric cognitive risk syndrome (MCR).
The test involves only measuring the patients' speed and asking some questions about cognitive ability. It does not use much medical technology.
"In many clinical and community settings, people don't have access to the sophisticated tests - biomarker assays, cognitive tests or neuroimaging studies - used to diagnose people at risk for developing dementia," Verghese said. "Our assessment method could enable many more people to learn if they're at risk for dementia, since it avoids the need for complex testing and doesn't require that the test be administered by the neurologist."
He went on to say the payoff would be substantial for individuals and for healthcare savings.
"All that's needed to assess MCR is a stopwatch and a few questions so primary care physicians could easily incorporate it into examinations of their older patients," he said.
Verghese defined a slow gait as walking slower than 2.2 miles per hour. But he also said that slow gait, or manner or walking, isn't sufficient for a true diagnosis of dementia.
"Walking slowly could be due to conditions such as arthritis or an inner ear problem that affects balance, which would not increase risk for dementia," he said. "To meet the criteria for MCR requires having a slow gait and cognitive problems."
Then he said they have to look for underlying health issues such as hypertension, high cholesterol or obesity that may interfere with blood flow and increase the person's risk. But sometimes, an underlying problem cannot be found.
"Even in the absence of a specific cause, we know that most healthy lifestyle factors, such as exercising and eating healthier, have been shown to reduce the rate of cognitive decline," Verghese said. "In addition, our group has shown that cognitively stimulating activities - playing board games, card games, reading, writing and also dancing - can delay dementia's onset."