Gait May Predict Alzheimer's Onset

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The gait of an older adult may be an indicator of whether or not they develop Alzheimer’s disease later on.

Natalia del Campo, PhD, of Gerontopole and the Center of Excellence in Neurodegeneration of Toulouse, France, and colleagues examined 128 people, average age of 76 years old, without dementia but considered at high risk for it due to memory problems. Positron emission tomography scans were conducted, and 48% of participants had levels of beta-amyloid high enough to be associated with dementia.

Researchers also tested the subjects’ thinking and memory skills, as well as their ability to complete everyday tasks. Mild cognitive impairment was found in 46% of particpants.

The participants’ walking speed was also measured. There was a link between slow walking speed and amyloid levels in certain areas of the brain, including one responsible for motor functions, the researchers reported in the journal Neurology.

After comparing the speed participants walked with and without accounting for amyloid buildup, the researchers found up to 9% of the difference was the result of amyloid levels. However, the connection between amyloid and walking speed was not altered when accounting for age, education, or extent of memory problems.

“It’s possible that having subtle walking disturbances in addition to memory concerns may signal Alzheimer's disease, even before people show any clinical symptoms,” Dr. del Campo said in a statement.

Elderly woman walking
Gait May Predict Alzheimer's Onset

The speed at which elderly people walk may indicate their likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to research published in Neurology.

Researchers led by Natalia del Campo, PhD, of the Gerontopole and the Center of Excellence in Neurodegeneration of Toulouse, in France, hypothesized that a slower speed of walking may be related to the amount of amyloid plaque people with Alzheimer's have built up in their brains, even if they do not yet have external symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Amyloid precursor protein (APP) occurs throughout the body. The amyloid hypothesis proposes that there is a fault with the processing of APP in the brain, leading to the production of a short fragment of APP, a sticky protein known as beta-amyloid.

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