Slower gait (walking) and cognitive decline both precede dementia onset. But the relative occurrence of gait speed decline and cognitive decline in aging is poorly understood.
In a study published online on November 15 in Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, Helena Blumen, Ph.D., M.S., and colleagues assessed the gait speed and cognitive functions of 1,095 participants in the Einstein LonGenity study involving people with a mean age of 75. At the start of the study, all were able to walk about and were free of dementia, although 12.2% had motoric cognitive risk (MCR) syndrome, a pre-dementia syndrome involving slow gait speed and subjective cognitive complaints. Participants were followed up annually for up to 12 years. Slowing of gait speed was found to occur earlier and at a faster rate than decline in ability to perform several cognitive tests, including tests of processing speed, language, memory, visuo-spatial abilities, and executive functions. In addition, MCR was identified as a risk factor for accelerated cognitive decline. The results suggest that gait speed decline and MCR—both of which can be measured quickly and at low cost—are early markers of cognitive decline that could help doctors identify individuals at risk for cognitive impairment and dementia at an earlier stage, when interventions may be helpful.
Dr. Blumen is associate professor of medicine and in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at Einstein.
Posted on: Wednesday, January 05, 2022