Walking Speed ​​Dementia Connection: Is It Real?

IIt’s no secret that as we age, our bodies naturally slow down. Our digestive system, our muscle recovery, the cellular turnover of our skin and yes, even our lifestyle is slowly getting a little slower.

So when a recent study came out that it seemed that a slow pace of walking along with the symptoms of memory loss could predict dementia, it surprised us: isn’t gait another thing that inevitably slows down with age? We’ve chatted with a few experts about these newly published results to find out what walking speed can tell you about your brain health and what it can’t.

How is behavior related to knowledge?

A new study of approximately 17,000 adults over the age of 65 found that those who showed only one, were more likely to have dementia than those who walk at a slower rate of about five percent (or more) each year and show signs of memory loss. . Between these two qualities.

Board-certified geriatrician Marijo Lynn Cleveland, MD, an associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, noted that it is common knowledge that people become functional and / or cognitive decline as they age. Although functional collapse may manifest itself in the form of stiff legs, slow walking, or a tendency to fall frequently, cognitive collapse often manifests itself as forgetfulness.

Although both of these types of falls are fairly common, Dr. Cleveland says that, even with this study, we do not currently have sufficient data to determine whether there is a correlation between walking speed and cognition. “That’s why a lot of work is being done in the area right now,” he said

What causes a slowdown as we age?

Before we can automatically guess that slow motion means you or your loved one is having dementia, we need to understand how much walking is involved.

Physical therapist Sandra Gayle Frena, founder of Hudson Premier Physical Therapy and Sports in New Jersey, says that walking involves balance, rhythm, speed and muscle coordination – all of which require a certain level of thinking, even subconsciously. “The cerebellum, which is responsible for balance and posture coordination and coordination, also controls movement,” he says.

“Walking is a very complex task involving multiple parts of the brain that demand balance, sight, hearing, sense of where we are and clearly an intact cognitive component (for example: Can I cross this road at a time? Before traffic starts?) , Dr. Cleveland explains. “It could be that the slow motion was due to weakness, or that we were small because we lost the ability to combine all these elements seamlessly.”

However, a decreased walking speed does not necessarily indicate a tendency for dementia, or dementia does not automatically equate to a decrease in movement.

“We all know people who are very cognitively disabled (have dementia) but who walk around without difficulty,” said Dr Cleveland. “Conversely, we know people who have significant mobility problems and who are ‘sharp as a tack’.” As such, he maintains that knowledge and behavior must be independent of each other.

“It says that towards the end of life, all people with dementia will lose the ability to walk, yet not all people who lose the ability to walk have dementia,” he added.

Do other physical symptoms indicate dementia?

Although the jury is not yet out on whether walking speed really does go hand in hand with the possibility of developing dementia, Dr Cleveland said some vascular risk factors (such as hypertension, diabetes and inactivity) are thought to increase one’s chances. To develop dementia.

And then there’s family history. “Genes play a major role in the potential risk of dementia,” Frena said.

How to keep your brain healthy as you get older

If you are worried that you or your loved one is at risk of developing dementia, remember that there is something we can do to keep our brain healthy with age.

“Geriatricians (and neurologists and others) generally believe that it would be better for all of us to try to prevent dementia than to treat it,” said Dr. Cleveland. “There is some information on lifestyle interventions and continuing to be studied as a way to prevent cognitive decline. These include a ‘mind’ or ‘Mediterranean diet’, significant amounts of exercise (both aerobic and weight training), a good night’s sleep, meaningful work ( Not necessarily paid, a reason to get out of bed every day) and cognitive and social stimulation (which hit during covid). ” In addition, he said that keeping blood pressure within optimal range (ideally 130 or less systolic) could reduce or delay the onset of cognitive impairment.

Overall, you should aim to build a healthy body and mind and by doing so, you will have a better chance of avoiding cognitive collapse.

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