-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- How fast you walk or how
strong your grip is in middle age might help predict your odds for
dementia or stroke later in life, a new study suggests.
Tests assessing walking speed and grip can be easily performed
in a doctor's office, noted study author Dr. Erica C. Camargo, of
the Boston Medical Center.
She and her colleagues tested the walking speed, hand grip
strength and cognitive function of more than 2,400 people, average
age 62. The participants also underwent brain scans.
During a follow-up period of up to 11 years, 34 people went on
to develop dementia (including Alzheimer's disease) and 70 had a
People who had a slower walking speed at the start of the study
were 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia than those with a
faster walking speed, according to the findings, which are slated
to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of
Neurology (AAN) in New Orleans in April.
People aged 65 and older who had a stronger hand grip strength
at the start of the study had a 42 percent lower risk of stroke or
mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack) than those with weaker hand
grip strength. This difference was not seen in people younger than
"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," Camargo said in an AAN news release.
The researchers also found that slower walking speed was
associated lower total cerebral brain volume and poorer performance
on memory, language and decision-making tests. Stronger hand grip
was associated with larger total cerebral brain volume and better
results on tests of thinking and memory in which people had 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," Camargo said.
Experts said the findings might be valuable in assessing patient
"It is unclear why there is such a correlation between walking speed and hand grip on these disease processes, yet they are two simple tests that can give us a pre-clinical clue as to what we might expect, and enable us to implement prevention," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Dr. Marshall Keilson, director of neurology at Maimonides
Medical Center, also in New York City, agreed. "At the very least,"
he noted, "this research suggests novel approaches to early
identification of dementia and stroke risk. It would be interesting
to test an even younger patient population with the same
Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered
preliminary until published in a peer-revised journal.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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