Scientists from the University of Edinburgh found a combination of slow walking and difficulties with memory could be associated with double the risk of developing dementia in later life.
They found people with Motoric Cognitive Risk (MCR)—a syndrome that involves slow walking speed and self-reported memory difficulties—are also at increased risk of cognitive impairment and experience higher mortality rates.
The team hopes the findings will lead to walking speed being routinely assessed when patients are examined for early signs of dementia.
The research is published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia and was conducted by Donncha Mullin et al.
In the study, researchers studied the data of almost 50,000 people aged 60 years and older with MCR across 15 studies.
They found that people with MCR were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and were at a 76 percent increased risk of cognitive impairment—trouble remembering, concentrating, or learning new information—than people without MCR.
The team also found that the risk of mortality for people with MCR was 49 percent higher than for those without it, and the risk of falls was 38 percent greater.
Researchers caution that because this was a pooling of observational studies, it was not possible to establish whether MCR causes these outcomes or is simply a risk factor for them.
Globally, 50 million people live with dementia, a number that is predicted to triple in the next 30 years.
The team says it is quick, cheap, and easy to check for MCR.
Adding it to the assessment of people with memory problems could be a practical way to help doctors identify patients at risk of developing dementia, especially in settings with minimal or no access to the current tests used to diagnose dementia.
Importantly, the current findings remained after taking into account other factors such as age and education level, as well as a past history of depression, stroke, or heart attacks.
However, more research is required before MCR is ready for use in the clinic.
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