(Mirror Daily, United States) – A new study suggests that walking slowly may be a marker of Alzheimer’s for seniors and could be one of the first physical symptoms that appear. However, those with loved ones or elderly do not have to worry that speed is everything. The researchers associated the speed of walking to dementia when paired with reports of memory loss.
The study was conducted on 128 people with an average age of 76 years old. None of them had any form of dementia, but some were at high risk due to claims of memory loss. Out of the participants, 46% of them had mild cognitive impairment.
The team of researchers conducted a series of positron emission tomography (PET) scans to measure their levels of amyloid plaques throughout the brain. They’re markers used to determine the patient’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. The higher the levels, the higher the risk.
Then, their speed of walking was tested across a distance of 13 feet of their normal pace. According to their results, those who walked more slowly had higher levels of β-amyloid (Aβ) in various parts of their brain. The buildup was found in their precuneus, occipital cortex, both posterior and anterior putamen, and the anterior cingulate. The average walking speed was of 3.48 feet per second.
According to lead author of the study, Dr. Natalia del Campo from the University Hospital in France, there’s a possible connection between walking speed and risk for Alzheimer’s. Walking disturbances paired with memory loss may be a signal, far before clinical symptoms actually appear. Or, at the very least, it could encourage patients to get tested.
Those who had slower speeds showed higher levels of amyloid plaques buildup in their brains. That’s commonly associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. Out of the participants 48% had a worryingly high level of amyloid plaques that were linked to early Alzheimer’s. This has brought on the suggestion that, while confusion and memory loss are some of the first symptoms observed, walking speed might be among them.
According to Dr. Eric Reiman from the American Federation for Aging Research, it’s an interesting concept to link the two together. However, both him and Dr. del Campo agree that the study requires more research. A causality was also not well established. They couldn’t prove that higher levels of amyloid plaques cause patients to walk slower.
Dr. del Campo also underlined that there are many factors that can cause senior citizens to walk more slowly, though it could become a useful diagnosis tool when paired with memory loss.
Image source: pri.org