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Walking Speed May Predict Dementia: Slow Pace Could Indicate Cognitive Decline

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A recent study published in Neurology suggests there is a link between walking speed and the onset of dementia in older adults. Using a stopwatch, tape and an 18-foot-long hallway to measure the walking speed of 175 adults aged 70 to 79, University of Pittsburgh researchers found that in the course of 14 years, those that slowed down by 0.1 second or more per year were 47 percent more likely to develop cognitive decline. The slowing walkers also experienced shrinkage in the right hippocampus, associated with complex learning and memory. The results held true even after realizing that a slowing gait could be due to muscle weakness, knee pain or another disease.

Similarly, a study published in Neurology of 93 adults 70 and older found that slow walkers were nine times more likely to develop non-memory-related mild cognitive decline than moderate-to-fast walkers. Walking speed was monitored using infrared sensors in their homes over a three-year period; participants regularly took memory and thinking tests.


This article appears in the July 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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