Briskness of walk in middle-age foretells stroke risk

February 16th, 2012 - 4:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 16 (IANS) Walking speed and hand grip strength may determine how a middle-aged person will develop dementia or stroke, says a new research.

“These are basic office tests which can provide insight into risk of dementia and stroke and can be easily performed by a neurologist or general practitioner,” said Erica C. Camargo, with the Boston Medical Center.

More than 2,400 men and women with an average age of 62 years 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, according to a Boston statement.

The study found people with a slower walking pace in middle age were one and a half times more likely to develop dementia compared to people with faster walking speed.

Stronger hand grip 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 65 years.

“While frailty and lower physical performance in elderly people have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, we were not 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 linked with larger total cerebral brain volume as well as with better performance on cognitive tests asking people to identify similarities among objects.

These findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans April 21 to April 28, 2012.

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