Slow walking may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research. In the future it may be used alongside traditional diagnostic methods to better diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. The study found a link between walking speed in the elderly and protein build-up in the brain, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers determined that slow walking may be a result of changes in the brain that occur prior to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Research lead, Dr. Natalia del Campo, “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.”
The study analyzed 128 seniors who did not have dementia but showed some signs of memory impairment. Levels of amyloid proteins were analyzed through medical scans – amyloid proteins are a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. A greater build-up of amyloid proteins was associated with a slower walking pace.
Dr. Laura Phipps from Alzheimer’s Research UK said, “There can be many reasons for someone’s walking speed to slow, but it’s important to explore why and when these changes occur in diseases like Alzheimer’s and how they can be managed to improve the lives of those affected.”
Louise Walker, Ph.D., of the Alzheimer’s Society said, “Research has already shown that people with Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulties with walking – but it is unclear if this is due to the condition itself or other factors, especially those associated with ageing. More long-term research is needed to determine whether a build-up of the protein amyloid, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, directly leads to slower walking and whether this could form a suitable part of a clinician’s diagnostic process.”
The findings were published in Neurology.