Changes in the way a person walks as they age may provide early indications about the onset of dementia.
Joe Verghese, MBBS, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, and colleagues found that a condition known as motoric cognitive risk syndrome (MCR), which is characterized by a slow gait accompanied with cognitive complaints, is an indicator of pre-dementia.
Overall, among people aged 60 and older, the incidence of MCR was 62.2 per 1,000 person-years (95% confidence interval 53.3-77.1), the researchers reported in the journal Neurology. Measuring gait speed may be one way to identify patients at risk for developing dementia, Verghese told MedPage Today.
The researchers also identified risk factors — including some potentially reversible — that lead to a higher risk of MCR. For example, having a sedentary lifestyle was associated with a 75% increased risk for the syndrome, while obesity was liked to a 39% greater risk.
“Not many established dementia studies include annual gait speed measurements that are core to MCR diagnosis,” the researchers wrote. “Prospective studies in more diverse and population-based cohorts are needed to establish national and international MCR incidence rates,” the researchers wrote.
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A higher incidence of a pre-dementia condition called motoric cognitive risk syndrome (MCR) was seen with advancing age in older, healthy adults, according to researchers.
They also identified potentially modifiable risk factors associated with a higher risk for MCR. Obesity was associated with a 39% greater risk for slow gait and cognitive complaint and sedentary lifestyle was associated with a 76% increase in risk.
In addition, gait speed may help identify patients at risk for dementia. Older patients who walked slowly were more likely to also have clinically meaningful cognitive decline when tested.