According to research conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association, walking patterns have been discovered to be a possible indicator for whether or not a loved one may have Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Monitoring thinking skills such as memory, planning activities, or processing information are all indicators of mental decline and are thus used as one of the many diagnoses for dementia.
Demonstrating cognitive skills like remembering, combined with the ability to walk fluidly have become ways in which to detect the onset of dementia. According to Molly Wagster, chief of the National Institute on Aging, indicated “Changes in walking may predate actual observable cognitive changes in people who are on their way to developing dementia.”
Studies in gait changes have begun to be studied in linkage with the after math of health issues like heart attack, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease. Just recently have walking and moving studies been linked with the onset of cognitive diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
With diseases like Alzheimer’s, the later stages do involve total degradation of ability to control bodily functions. Most tests to diagnose dementia and other cognitive declining diseases are conducted while sitting down, and completely ignore physical well-being and ability. But, as tests seem to be showing, if patients have trouble with walking at a normal gait, then this is an indicator that there is cognitive decline as well.
The study conducted ruled out elderly patients with arthritis, walking issues, and other diseases that would affect the ability to walk at a regular gait and was adjusted for respective height, age, weight and gender. The participants were first asked to walk normally, and then asked to walk a second time while performing a cognitive task such as counting backwards from 50 by twos or naming off animals.
Many participants had no trouble with the first walk, but when asked to perform a cognitive task while walking, their balance decreased significantly. While this may not necessarily be an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, walking and thinking are showing strong links that point towards decreased cognitive function.
Other walking patterns were tested on participants, and were combined to make up scores that indicated that there had been varying levels of cognitive decline, especially when combined with other tasks like walking.
Research also indicated that physical activity not only indicates cognitive decline, but can also help to prevent the onset of dementia, or at least delay the onset of the disease.