Nov 29, 2016

Changes in Balance and Gait Can Predict Decline in Memory and Thinking

Did you know that changes in gait and balance can be an early sign of memory decline, Alzheimer's disease, and dementia?

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Walking is a milestone in development for toddlers, but it’s actually only one part of the complex cognitive task known as gait that includes everything from a person’s stride length to the accompanying swing of each arm.

A Mayo Clinic study recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that problems associated with gait can predict a significant decline in memory and thinking.

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Back in 2001 my mother started walking funny. When she walked she would drag her feet, it made a very distinctive sound, like she was scrapping her feet on the ground. Did this happen with your loved one?

I started telling everyone about this. You know what they all said including her doctor?

She's just getting old.

I accepted this even though I knew there was something wrong.

I hope you will take the time to read the research finding presented below. Did you know that at age 80 a person has about a 30 percent chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's or a related dementia. The number rises to 42 percent at age 85.

Please consider sharing this article with those you know that have older parents or grandparents. Changes in gait and balance could be a predictor of Alzheimer's or a related dementia. Or, it could be something else that can be treated effectively. By sharing you might make a big difference in their lives.

By Susan Barber Lindquist

Using the Rochester Epidemiology Project, Mayo Clinic researchers examined medical records of Olmsted County, Minnesota, residents, who were between ages 70 to 89. The analysis included 3,426 cognitively normal participants enrolled in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging who had a complete gait and neuropsychological assessment.

Using computerized analyses, researchers measured gait parameters, such as:
  • Stride length
  • Ambulatory time
  • Gait speed
  • Step count
  • Cadence
  • Stance time
  • Arm swing
Alterations in several gait parameters were associated with decline in memory, thinking and language skills, and visual perception of the spatial relationship of objects.

The study results also supported the role of computerized analysis because the computer tool detected modifications before impairment was detected with a standard neuropsychological test.

“The presence of gait disturbances increases with advancing age and affects the independence of daily living, especially in the elderly. Computerized gait analysis is a simple, noninvasive test that potentially could be used to identify patients at high risk for cognitive decline and to target appropriate therapies.
-- Rodolfo Savica, M.D., lead author on the study.

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In addition to Dr. Savica, Mayo Clinic study co-authors are:

Alexandra Wennberg, Ph.D.
Clinton Hagen
Kelly K. Edwards
Rosebud Roberts, M.B., Ch.B.
John Hollman, Ph.D.
David Knopman, M.D.
Bradley Boeve, M.D.
Mary Machulda, Ph.D.
Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D.
Michelle Mielke, Ph.D.

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit Mayo Clinic