From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published July 19, 2012 02:20 PM

Gait and Decline

Problems walking including slow gait and a short stride are associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered. Alzheimer disease course is divided into four stages, with progressive patterns of cognitive and functional impairments. Their findings are being presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference July 14—19 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Researchers measured the stride length, cadence and velocity of more than 1,341 participants through a computerized gait instrument at two or more visits roughly 15 months apart. Researchers found that study participants with lower cadence, velocity and length of stride experienced significantly larger declines in global cognition, memory and executive function.

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"These results support a possible role of gait changes as an early predictor of cognitive impairment," said study author Rodolfo Savica, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

Researchers measured the stride length, cadence and velocity of more than 1,341 participants through a computerized gait instrument at two or more visits roughly 15 months apart. Researchers found that study participants with lower cadence, velocity and length of stride experienced significantly larger declines in global cognition, memory and executive function.

"These results support a possible role of gait changes as an early predictor of cognitive impairment," said study author Rodolfo Savica, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurologist.

At this year's conference, Mayo Clinic researchers also reported on the validity of Stage 2 MCI. This stage was designed to differentiate patients with early Alzheimer's disease from those with other cognitive issues. Researchers studied 156 people who met the criteria for MCI. Of those, 67 percent had evidence of early Alzheimer's disease.

"These results indicate that the new diagnostic criteria for MCI due to Alzheimer's works quite well," said study author Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D, a Mayo Clinic neurologist. "Ultimately, though, the validity of these new criteria will be determined by the long-term outcome of these subjects."

As the disease advances, symptoms can include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, trouble with language, and long-term memory loss. As the sufferer declines they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Since the disease is different for each individual, predicting how it will affect the person is difficult. Alzheimer develops for an unknown and variable amount of time before becoming fully apparent, and it can progress undiagnosed for years. On average, the life expectancy following diagnosis is approximately seven years. Fewer than three percent of individuals live more than fourteen years after diagnosis.

For further information see Mayo.

Brain image via Wikipedia.

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