Gait changes as leading indicator of cognitive decline

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Research released at last week’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2012) not only correlates decline in mobility with decline in mental functions, but that those with walking difficulties are at increased risk for–and predate–cognitive impairment. The Basel (CH) Mobility Centre tested 1,153 participants (average age=77) under care, plus cognitively healthy participants in a Basel cohort study, from 2007 to 2011. Groups were divided by diagnosis: cognitively healthy, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s dementia, further divided into mild, moderate or severe. All participants performed one “normal” walk and two different “dual tasks” – normal walking while simultaneously counting backwards out loud or while simultaneously naming animals–the latter is the most striking. A separate Dutch study correlated specific gait aspects (e.g. stride) with specific cognitive abilities. So reliable gait tracking over time, outside and in the home, is objectively a ‘vital sign’–an area for both telecare and telehealth monitoring. AAIC release. Footprints to Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer’s Are Seen in Gait (NY Times)