Gait Changes Could Signal Greater Risk for Cognitive Impairment

Doctors may have a new tool for assessing dementia: watching the way their patients walk.

Three studies presented at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer’s Association show a link between dementia and declining walking ability or “gait disturbances,” according to a press release from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

“With an aging baby boomer generation advancing into greater risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is important for physicians to be aware of the associations between gait and mental function. These studies suggest that observing and measuring gait changes could be a valuable tool for signaling the need for further cognitive evaluation,” said William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, in the news statement.

“For busy doctors who have limited time with their patients, monitoring deterioration and other changes in a person’s gait is ideal because it doesn’t require any expensive technology or take a lot of time to assess,” Thies said. “It is relatively simple and straightforward.”

One of the studies presented at the conference found that as someone’s cognitive decline progressed, their gait slowed and became more variable.

“Those with Alzheimer’s dementia walked slower than those with MCI (mild cognitive impairment), who in turn walked slower than those who were cognitively healthy,” said Dr. Stephanie A. Bridenbaugh of the Basel Mobility Center.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2012 news release

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