How fast you walk in middle age may predict dementia risk

Today, 36 million people worldwide have dementia and that number is forecasted to increase to more than 115 million people by 2050 because of the aging of the population. A recent study, conducted at the Boston Medical Center shows that it is possible to determine how likely you are to develop dementia or stroke by measuring your walking speed and the strength of your grip. A general practitioner or a primary care physician could easily conduct these tests that can provide insight into the risk of dementia.

Lead researcher Dr. Erica Camargo and her colleagues have examined 2410 people with an average age of 62, over a time period of 11 years. Their brains have been scanned and their walking speed and strength of grip has been measured. 34 of the participants developed dementia and 79 had a stroke. It was found that middle-aged people who walk slowly were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia at over 65 compared with people who walked faster. People with a strong grip had a 42 percent lower risk of stroke or a mini-stroke in later life.

Dr. Erica Camargo said “While frailty and lower physical performance in elderly people have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, we weren’t sure until now how it impacted people of middle age.”

The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal but the results will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in April this year.

Sources: World Alzheimer Report 2011 (

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About Stéphanie Treschow

I work as Country Manager for ACCESS Health International, Sweden. I have a background in Banking and hold a Master of Science in Finance from Stockholm School of Economics. I have previously worked as Equity Sales Analyst at Citigroup in London where I advised global institutional clients on global equities. Prior to that, I have pursued several internships for global institutional banks in New York, London and Stockholm. I have also worked with the private charitable foundation, The World We Want, in identifying and evaluating projects aimed at poverty alleviation and solutions to environmental degradation.

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