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Dec 03, 2015 11:02 PM EST

Slow walking associated with risk of Alzheimer's

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A new study has revealed that a slow walking speed in older adults is associated with higher level of brain amyloid deposits that puts them at a high risk of developing dementia, Medscape reports.

"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," said study author Dr Natalia del Campo, of the Gerontopole and the Centre of Excellence in Neurodegeneration of Toulouse in France, according to the Telegraph.

The study was published online in Neurology.

"Our results suggest that taking into account physical parameters that are not conventionally looked at in dementia, such as walking speed, may help optimize the early identification of individuals who are at risk of Alzheimer's," Dr del Campo commented to Medscape Medical News.

"However, more evidence is needed before our data can be translated into clinical practice," she added.

"There are many other causes of slow walking in older adults."

The study involved 128 people, whose average age was 76 years, who did not have dementia but were considered at high risk because they had concerns about their memory.

The researchers speculated that amyloid toxicity disrupting motor circuits could be the reason behind the observations. The participants in the study underwent positron emission tomography (PET) to measure amyloid plaques in the brain, and 48% of the group was found to have amyloid levels often associated with dementia.

The results showed an association between slow walking speed and amyloid in several areas of the brain.

The researchers found that the amyloid level accounted for up to 9% of the difference in walking speed.

"Collectively, our results suggest that subtle walking disturbances in addition to subjective memory concerns may signal Alzheimer's, even in people who are fully asymptomatic and have a walking pace within the normal range," Dr del Campo said. 

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