Walking movements may predict memory decline

In the journals

Previous research has suggested that slow walking speed might predict cognitive decline, but a recent study suggests how you walk also may provide clues. The results were published online Nov. 19, 2016, by the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Researchers examined medical records of more than 3,400 people ages 70 to 89 who had completed both a neurological examination and gait analysis to measure walking movements like stride length, step count, cadence, stance time, and arm swings.

After adjusting for factors often associated with gait changes, such as muscle strength, weight gain, and neurological conditions, they found an association between dips in gait parameters — like shorter strides and fewer arm swings — and a decline in memory, thinking, and language skills.

While the gait changes cannot always be tracked or detected by a doctor — in the study a computerized pad measured the differences — men should seek medical advice if they, or someone else, notices changes in how they walk, such as smaller strides or trouble with balance, says lead researcher Dr. Rodolfo Savica, a neurologist with the Mayo Clinic.