“These are basic office tests which can provide insight into risk of dementia and stroke and can be easily performed by a neurologist or general practitioner,”
More than 2,400 men and women with an average age of 62 underwent tests for walking speed, hand grip strength and cognitive function. Brain scans were also performed. During the follow-up period of up to 11 years, 34 people developed dementia and 70 people had a stroke.
The study found people with a slower walking speed in middle age were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia compared to people with faster walking speed. Stronger hand grip strength was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) in people over age 65 compared to those with weaker hand grip strength. This was not the case, however, for people in the study under age 65.
“While frailty and lower physical performance in elderly people have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, we weren’t sure until now how it impacted people of middle age,” said Camargo. Researchers also found that slower walking speed was associated with lower total cerebral brain volume and poorer performance on memory, language and decision-making tests. Stronger hand grip strength was associated with larger total cerebral brain volume as well as better performance on cognitive tests asking people to identify similarities among objects. “Further research is needed to understand why this is happening and whether preclinical disease could cause slow walking and decreased strength,” said Camargo.
The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Framingham Heart Study and by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 25,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.