Early warning signs of dementia? Researchers have found a link between walking speed and disease risk


The hobby during the coronavirus lockdowns was what else you should do: walking. This kind of gentle exercise strengthens the immune system, reduces stress and helps keep the metabolism going. So walking is not only healthy, but can also help detect diseases at an early stage. A recent study from Australia shows what your walking pace says about your risk of dementia.

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Dementia study: Researchers study the relationship between walking speed and dementia

For a long time now, experts have considered a decrease in walking speed as a warning sign of the increasing restrictions. Additional research suggests that slow walking may also be linked to cognitive impairment. Scientists believe this is due to contraction of the right hippocampus, which is the brain’s tipping point between short-term and long-term memory.

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Walking is important to keep fit and reduce the risk of dementia. But walking speed can say something about your risk of dementia.

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Researchers are sure that anyone who walks 5 percent slower each year is at risk of developing dementia

The study by the research team led by Dr. Taya Collier of the Peninsula Clinical School in Australia, which was published in the journal JAMA at the end of May, found a subtle connection. Namely, according to the researchers, anyone who walks at least five percent slower each year and at the same time shows other warning signs, such as slower processing of information, has a high probability of developing dementia.

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For the research work, scientists examined 17,000 people over the age of 65. Every two years, subjects took cognitive tests that allowed conclusions to be drawn about memory performance and cognitive processing speed. Fluent speech was also closely examined.

Additionally, study participants were asked to walk three metres. From the scientists’ perspective, walking speed is of great importance: “These findings underscore the importance of walking in assessing dementia risk,” wrote lead author Taya Collier.

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During the study, some of the participants showed the highest risk of developing dementia. Those who showed slower walking speed and mental decline were considered to be at high risk. In the post, the researchers talked about “double losers,” that is, people who are double impaired – both in walking and in understanding. According to experts, study participants who showed deterioration in only one of the two points were less severe.

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About 1.5 million people in Germany currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. But regular training sessions should prevent the hippocampus from shrinking. For example, a 2011 clinical study confirmed that regular aerobic exercise had a positive effect and even increased the size of the brain’s hippocampus by 2%. In the control group in the study, who only did stretching exercises at the same time, the hippocampus shrunk by 1.43 percent. Other sports can also help keep you fit and reduce your risk of dementia. Like swimming and cycling. (indeed)

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