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A slower walk as you age has always been a warning sign of increasing frailty that could lead to falls and other disabilities, experts say. Emerging research in small groups of elderly subjects has also found that a slower gait from year to year may be an early sign of cognitive decline.
That may be due to shrinking in the right hippocampus, which is the part of the brain associated with memory, according to studies.
But not all signs of cognitive decline predict later dementia – only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of people age 65 or older with mild cognitive impairment or MCI develop dementia over the next year, according to the National Institute on Aging.
“In many cases, the symptoms of MCI may stay the same or even improve,” the institute states.
Now, a large, new study of nearly 17,000 adults over age 65 finds people who walk about 5 per cent slower or more each year while also exhibiting signs of slower mental processing were most likely to develop dementia. The study was published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open.
“These results highlight the importance of gait in dementia risk assessment,” wrote corresponding author Taya Collyer, a research fellow at Peninsula Clinical School at Monash University in Victoria, Australia.
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