Can Slow Walking Speed Be a Determining Factor for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Source from Alzheimer’s Association Newsletter

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July 25, 2014—(BRONX, NY)—A study involving nearly 27,000 older adults on five continents found that nearly 1 in 10 met criteria for pre-dementia based on a simple test that measures how fast people walk and whether they have cognitive complaints. People who tested positive for pre-dementia were twice as likely as others to develop dementia within 12 years. The study, led by scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center, was published online on July 16, 2014 in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“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,” said Joe Verghese, M.B.B.S., professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology and of medicine at Einstein, chief of geriatrics at Einstein and Montefiore, and senior author of the Neurology paper. “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 a neurologist. The potential payoff could be tremendous—not only for individuals and their families, but also in terms of healthcare savings for society. 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.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 5.3 million Americans—about 1 in 9 people age 65 and over—have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. That number is expected to more than double by 2050 due to population aging.