(HealthDay News) — Seniors who walk more slowly may have higher amounts β-amyloid (Aβ) in their brains, according to research published online December 2 in Neurology.
The research team analyzed 128 people (average age, 76) who did not have a formal diagnosis of dementia but were considered at high risk. Brain scans measured Aβ plaque levels in their brains, with 48% registering a level often associated with dementia. Participants underwent cognitive and memory skills testing, with 46% classified as having mild cognitive impairment. Gait speed was measured using a standard test timing how fast participants walked 13 feet at their usual pace, and all but two tested within normal range.
The researchers found an association between slow gait speed and Aβ build-up in the posterior and anterior putamen, occipital cortex, precuneus, and anterior cingulate. Aβ burden accounted for up to 9 percent of the difference in gait speed between faster and slower walkers.
“These results suggest that subtle walking disturbances, in addition to subjective memory concerns, may signal Alzheimer’s disease, even in people who are fully asymptomatic and have a walking pace within the normal range,” study author Natalia del Campo, PhD, scientific manager of the Centre of Excellence in Neurodegeneration in Toulouse, France, told HealthDay. “Taking into account physical parameters that are not conventionally looked at in Alzheimer’s disease, such as gait speed, may help optimize the early identification of patients at risk.”