Brain health and walking speed often decline together

In the journals

Published: August, 2020

Slower gait speed and cognitive decline may be related, according to a study published online April 12, 2020, by the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Scientists recorded the gait speed and cognitive health of 370 people in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA). Cognitive health was measured with a test that assessed orientation to time and place, attention, recall, language, and other aspects. Gait speed was measured with a timed 10-foot walk.

Following up after almost 10 years, the researchers found a direct link between slower speeds and lower cognitive scores. In fact, those who had both poor cognition and slow gait speed at the beginning showed the steepest decline. In comparison, those who had stable gait speeds over time scored well on the cognitive tests.

According to the researchers, cognition and gait speed may be altered by similar factors, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and abnormal deposits of beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain, which are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Image: PeopleImages/Getty Images

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.