Old Man

Cognitive disabilities generally manifest as distinct physical traits in individuals affected by them. The speed of walking and strength of hand grip could signify the prevalence of dementia in middle-aged men, assert scientists from the Boston Medical Center.

Nearly 2,400 males and females with median age 62 experienced tests that gauged their walking speed, strength of hand grip and cognitive function. They were also exposed to MRI scans in the trial. In the follow-up study conducted after 11 years, 34 people seemed to develop dementia, while 70 people suffered from stroke.

The team found that individuals who walked slowly in middle age were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia, relative to those who walked faster. Moreover, stronger hand grip appeared to be associated with nearly 42% lower risk for transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke in persons aged above 65, as compared to those with weaker hand grip.

“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. Further research is needed to understand why this is happening and whether preclinical disease could cause slow walking and decreased strength,” remarked Erica C. Camargo, MD, MSc, PhD, with Boston Medical Center.

The investigators also found that slower walking speed was linked to poor performance in memory tests and lower cerebral brain volume. On the other hand, stronger hand grip was presumably correlated with greater cerebral brain volume along with better performance in memory tests.

The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans.