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Walking Speed, Hand Strength Predict Deadly Conditions?

February 16, 2012

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Dementia and stroke affect thousands of Americans each year, with stroke being the third leading cause of death. However, simple tests such as walking speed and hand grip strength are helping doctors determine how likely it is a middle-aged person will develop these debilitating, often fatal, diseases.

Erica C. Camargo, MD, MSc, PhD, with the Boston Medical Center and her colleagues performed basic office tests to gain insight into the risk of dementia and stroke. More than 2,400 men and women, with an average age of 62, participated in this study.  Volunteers underwent tests for walking speed, hand grip strength and cognitive function. Brain scans were also performed. During the follow-up period of up to 11 years, 34 people developed dementia and 70 people had a stroke.

The study found people with a slower walking speed in middle age were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia compared to people who walk faster. Stronger hand grip strength was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) in people over age 65 compared to those with weaker hand grip strength. This was not the case, however, for people in the study under age 65.

“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,” said Camargo.

Researchers also found that slower walking speed was associated with lower total cerebral brain volume and poorer performance on memory, language and decision-making tests. Stronger hand grip strength was associated with larger total cerebral brain volume as well as better performance on cognitive tests asking people to identify similarities among objects.

“Further research is needed to understand why this is happening and whether preclinical disease could cause slow walking and decreased strength,” Camargo was also quoted as saying.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, February, 2012




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