Study of over 16,800 older Australians and Americans finds slow walking and cognitive decline a predictor of dementia

A landmark study of more than 16,800 older adults found that decreased walking speed and cognition are strong predictors of future dementia. The authors of the study, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Open, suggest that simple tests of memory and walking speed, carried out in health clinics, could provide measures preventive measures to prevent the individual and the world. cost of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, conducted by Dr. Taya Collyer and Associate Professor Michele Callisayaof The National Center for Healthy Aging (NCHA) and Monash University Central Clinical School, as well as researchers from the ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) study used data from 16,855 healthy Australian and American people over the age of 65. Their gait, or walking speed, was measured at zero, two, four and six years into the study, along with measures of their cognition such as memory and verbal fluency tests.

Compared to those in the study for whom neither cognition nor gait declined, the risk of dementia was highest in those whose gait and performance on cognitive tests both declined compared to those whose declines individual.

There will be over 150 million people with dementia by 2050, at a cost of US$1.6 trillion. It is therefore important to be able to predict those at risk of the disease and provide them with preventive interventions such as exercise, blood pressure control and a healthy diet.

Although slow walking speed has been associated with cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia, and some studies link slow gait and subjective cognitive decline to dementia, according to Associate Professor Callisaya “This is the largest study to test the synergistic impact of both decline and reduction in walking as a predictor of dementia – specifically comparing objective measures of global cognition, processing speed, memory and verbal fluency “, she said.

The participants, aged over 70 or over 65 if from a minority background, were recruited between 2010 and 2014 in the United States and Australia. All were free of cardiovascular disease, dementia or physical disability at the start of the study. Gait speed was measured at in-person visits at zero, two, four, six, and at a closing visit at the end of the study. Each participant completed two three-meter walks at the usual pace from a standing start with an extra meter at the end to avoid slowing down.

The study measured annual changes in cognition and gait throughout the study period along with a rigorous assessment of dementia. “We examined associations between double (combined) decline in walking speed and measures of cognition with a diagnosis of dementia,” Dr. Collyer said. “We found that the dual decline in gait speed and cognitive measures is associated with a higher risk of dementia compared to non-decliners, or cognitive-only decliners, or gait-only decliners.”

The authors, which include Professor Anne Murray, from the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research at the University of Minnesota, say that serial gait measurement with simple memory tests may be a more sensitive predictor of future dementia that either measures alone. , with such tests feasible in primary health clinics, with a view to introducing early preventive measures.

About the National Center for Healthy Aging (NCHA)

The National Center for Healthy Aging (NCHA) is Australia’s premier healthy aging research center committed to transforming the health and care of our aging communities.

A partnership between Monash University and Peninsula HealthNCHA brings together top researchers from various health disciplines to co-design research to help solve some of the greatest challenges facing our aging population.

A new research program will see the center invest more than $7 million in new research into healthy aging over the coming year.

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