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Memory Problems Combined with Slowed Walking tied to Dementia

Update Date: Jul 26, 2014 09:07 AM EDT

A new study identified two risk factors that could predict dementia in older adults. According to the researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center, older people who complain about memory problems and have a slow walking speed might have a greater risk of dementia.

For this study, the researchers examined data on 26,802 older participants from five continents. The participants were all aged 60 or older and had been enrolled in 22 studies across 17 nations. The team conducted a test that measured motoric cognitive risk syndrome (MCR), which is a sign of pre-dementia. The test recorded the participants' gait speed and asked them questions about their cognitive function.

They found that roughly one in 10 participants had met the criteria for pre-dementia. The participants who had tested positive for pre-dementia were two times more likely to develop the mental condition within 12 years when compared to people who did not have signs of pre-dementia.

"Our assessment method could enable many more people to learn if they're at risk for dementia, since it avoids the need for complex testing and doesn't require that the test be administered by a neurologist...All that's needed to assess MCR is a stopwatch and a few questions, so primary care physicians could easily incorporate it into examinations of their older patients," said senior author, Joe Verghese, M.B.B.S., professor in the Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology and of medicine at Einstein, chief of geriatrics at Einstein and Montefiore.

Overall, 9.7 percent of the adult had MCR, which meant that they had a slow walking speed and cognitive issues. MCR was equally common in men and women but more common in people with less education.

"Even in the absence of a specific cause, we know that most healthy lifestyle factors, such as exercising and eating healthier, have been shown to reduce the rate of cognitive decline," said Dr. Verghese according to the press release. "In addition, our group has shown that cognitively stimulating activities-playing board games, card games, reading, writing and also dancing-can delay dementia's onset. Knowing they're at high risk for dementia can also help people and their families make arrangements for the future, which is an aspect of MCR testing that I've found is very important in my own clinical practice."

The study was published in the journal, Neurology.

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