A study led by Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) scientist Dr John Best examined the relationship between cognitive decline and gait speed (measured in metres per second) and found that a significant decrease in gait speed is a possible predictor of future cognitive decline among older adults.
Dr Best and colleagues collaborated with US researchers and drew from the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study (a large longitudinal study of American older adults) to access the required longitudinal data. Researchers looked at a cohort of 2876 older adults (aged 70 to 79 years at baseline), with an equal sampling of men and women, who were all initially well-functioning community-dwellers studied over a 9-year period. Older adults who showed a decline in gait speed that was larger than the average decline found in their peers during the first half of the study period tended to show a stronger decline in cognition during the second half of the study period. And the reciprocal relationship was somewhat evident, but weaker. Researchers noted that the findings also point to a bit of directionality or a sequencing of aging such that you primarily see it in mobility first and then it might transition into changes in cognition.
Findings may lead researchers and clinicians to be better able to define populations where intervention to improve cognitive performance would be of greatest benefit.
Dr Best is a researcher at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health and the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, and a research associate in the Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, at the University of British Columbia.
The study, “An evaluation of the longitudinal, bidirectional associations between gait speed and cognition in older women and men,” is published in the Journals of Gerontology: Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences and is available at http://biomedgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/04/10/gerona.glw066.abstract (login required).
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