Walking slow in middle age may factor in dementia

Lisa Wurth

February 17, 2012

Do you need help avoiding mosquitoes and other pests? Walking speed and hand grip strength are important factors in a senior’s ability to avoid falls. However, a new study finds that these factors might also play a role in determining if a person will develop dementia or suffer a stroke with age.

The study, which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting in April, found that there may be a correlation between simple walking and hand grip testing in middle-age and a person’s chances of developing cognitive issues later on.

To find this, researchers ran tests for walking speed, hand grip strength and cognitive function on 2,400 men and women with an average age of 62. Each person was then followed for up to 11 years, at which time scientists found that 32 people had developed dementia and 70 had stokes.

Using the earlier testing, researchers found that participants who initially had a slower walking speed were one and a half times more likely to develop dementia than people with normal to fast walking speed. People over the age of 65 with a stronger hand grip were found to be 42 percent less at risk of suffering a stroke over people of a similar age with weak hand grip.

Although more tests need to be conducted to prove these results, it is known that walking poorly or having a weak grip might increase a person’s risk of falling. With one in three people age 65 and older predicted to fall each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors living alone might need to be cautious. Wearing a medical alert smartwatch system may useful, as it gives people access to help at all times.

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