A new piece of intriguing health news suggests that we can look to our feet and hands — in a way — when preventing dementia and stroke.
Researchers have found that testing a person’s walking speed and grip strength may help show how likely these serious conditions are to strike.
This fascinating possible diagnosis instrument will be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting.
These are basic office tests that can provide insight into one’s risk of dementia and stroke and can be easily performed by a doctor. The study included more than 2,400 adults (average age: 62) who 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 that people with a slower walking speed in middle age were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia compared to people with faster walking speed. Stronger hand grip strength was associated with a 42% lower risk of stroke or “transient ischemic attack” 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 older adults have been linked with a higher risk of dementia, researchers weren’t sure until now how it impacted people of middle age.
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.
More research, as usual, is needed to understand why this is happening and whether early signs of the disease could be responsible for slower walking and lower hand strength. But in the meantime, it’s another simple, extra tool to help doctors find out as early as possible if dementia and stroke are in the process of developing.
The earlier a major health problem is detected, the easier it will be to treat (in terms of dementia) and to prevent (for a stroke).