Many people worry about the possibility of developing dementia or suffering from a stroke when they get older. How real is that concern for any single individual? New research released by the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting suggest that some simple tests could help determine who is at greatest risk for these disabling conditions.
Researchers found that people with a slower walking speed at midlife were one and a half times more likely to develop dementia compared to those who walked faster. A stronger hand grip was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of stroke in those over 65.
The research also suggested some reasons for the connection between physical performance, dementia and stroke. People who walked more slowly had lower total cerebral brain power and poor results on tests of memory, language and decision-making. People with a stronger hand grip also had a larger cerebral brain volume and did better on tests asking them to identify similarities among objects.
The study looked at more than 2,400 men and women with an average age of 62 who were followed for up to 11 years.
The researchers don't have an explanation for the connection between walking speed, hand grip and health in later life but they say that that's something they'll be looking at in the future.