Studies have suggested that variation in walking patterns in the elderly is one of the first signs of dementia. One group of researchers studied the strides of a group of elderly patients at Basel Mobility Centre in Switzerland.
This study found that the participants whose cognitive facilities are waning walk more slowly than their counterparts, particularly when asked to perform a simple task – such as counting backward – while walking.
“Gait analysis can simply, quickly and objectively measure walking. When problems emerge, this may provide early detection of fall risk and the earliest stages of cognitive impairment in older adults,” ABC News quoted a researcher saying.
Other doctors too have pointed out that older patients find it harder to perform tasks while walking. “Someone with mild troubles trying to remember things, they might not be focused as much on walking,” said Dr William Hu, assistant professor of neurology at Emory University. ”I hear this all the time from patients: ‘I was rushing to go to the grocery store, and I left my purse at home.’ Asking a person to do another thing while walking really tests their cognitive reserve,” he noted.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that changes in pace and stride was directly correlated to their memory loss. Heather Snyder, senior associate director of the Alzheimer’s Association, reports that these studies “continue to build the evidence that there is a connection between gait and cognition.” The studies were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada, on Sunday.