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Alzheimer's linked to walking speed, study says

July 17, 2012

Scientists have long been looking for early indicators of Alzheimer's disease, and a batch of new research suggests how fast a person walks may be one of the best symptoms. Studies presented at the Alzheimer's Association's International Conference say there is a distinct correlation between a person's gait and their risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to CBS News.

The presentation was based off the findings of several other studies. One of them was conducted by a team from Oregon Health and Science University that looked at 19 dementia-free patients. By analyzing their walking speed in a doctor's office and at home, while measuring brain volume through MRIs, they were able to trace associated changes in both. At the end, scientists noticed subjects who walked slower at home were more likely to have lower brain volume.

"Walking speed taken at a single time point may over-estimate walking abilities in the elderly," study author Dr. Lisa Silbert told CBS. "Our data suggests that continuous in-home monitoring may provide a more accurate reflection of walking speed and may be more sensitive at detecting motor changes associated with future cognitive decline."

The fact that there's a relationship between one's physical and mental abilities likely does not come as a surprise to many medical professionals. In fact, research presented earlier this year suggests that any sort of activity - from washing dishes to playing cards - can lower one's Alzheimer's risk significantly, USA Today reported.

Not only is Alzheimer's disease one of the biggest threats to enjoying senior living, but it is also one of the biggest impending global health issues. Experts estimate that the number of worldwide cases of the disease could reach as many as 115 million by 2050.