If you can’t walk AND do this at the same time your dementia risk could be higher, says researcher

NHS General Health Check
NHS health check
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A researcher in Canada has suggested that whose slow down their walking at a higher than expected rate while completing one other task such as talking, could have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Dr. Manuel Montero-Odasso is part of a team of researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario, who are conducting initial research into the relationship between a person’s gait and their risk of dementia.

This will require patients to “dual gait test,” which will see them walking and talking at the same time, or walking while doing mental arithmetic.

While it’s natural to see a slight slow down while completing these tasks together, Dr. Montero-Odasso argued that those who slow their pace by more than 30 per cent have an increased risk of later dementia.

Expanding on this he said, “People realize if you walk and talk at the same time, and you need to slow down a lot to talk, there’s something not as good in your brain [as] other people who can do the two activities at the same time.”

Dr. Montero-Odasso outlined that currently those patients who go to a memory clinic for cognitive problems may receive a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Of those patients, around 70 per cent will go on to develop dementia, while the remaining 30 per cent won’t.

It’s hoped that the dual gait test can be used as a non-invasive tool for clinicians to help predict which group patients could fall into, and as a result those who could best benefit from clinical trials for dementia treatment.

“We want to use [the gait test] to detect people at risk, and that will help us to determine who will benefit importantly from more invasive tests that we don’t want to do on the patients,” he continued.

The study will also examine which combinations of exercise could potentially have benefits for those with MCI.

“Is it walking and swimming? Is it the same doing resistance training with weights, or aerobic training on a treadmill? Should we do it two times a week, three times a week? Should we do it for half an hour, one hour?” he added.

“We don’t know that yet.”

According to Alzheimer’s Society there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025.

Miriam worked for woman&home for over five years and previously worked on the women's lifestyle magazines Woman and Woman's Own.