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Poor Physical Function First Signs of Dementia - Alzheimer's Disease Early Warnings May Include Loss of Balance Limp and Weak Hand Grip

May 24th 2006

Poor Physical Function First Signs of Dementia - Alzheimer's Disease Early Warnings May Include Loss of Balance Limp and Weak Hand Grip


Researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, believe that poor physical performance may be early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  It has been shown that both physical performance and cognitive (thinking, learning and memory) ability tend to decline with age, but few studies have examined how physical performance is linked to the development of dementia or the intermediate stage known as cognitive impairment.

This study involved 2,288 participants, age 65 and older, who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. Between 1994 and 1996, participants underwent initial testing to determine their cognitive abilities, which were scored on a scale from zero to 100.  Along with this testing, they performed four tests of physical function.  These tests included standing from a seated position five times, a standing balance assessment, a timed 10 foot walk, and a measured grip strength test performed on their dominant hand.


The participants were scored zero to four on each test, where four was the highest functioning.  The researchers then added the score and compared it to the same test every other year through October 2003.  They were also assessed for dementia. 

At the beginning of the study, participants with the lowest physical performance also had the lowest cognitive skills.  After 6 years, 319 participants developed dementia, including 221 with Alzheimer's disease.  The researchers found that those with performance scores over 10 were much less likely to develop dementia that those with scores below 10. 


Even after accounting for age, gender, education, a family history or genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's disease and other mental illnesses, it appears physical performance is a good predictor of outcome.  Each one-point decrease on the physical performance scale was associated with an increased risk of dementia, Alzheimer's disease and a more rapid decline in cognitive performance scores.

The researchers concluded, “We observed that among participants without apparent cognitive impairment, those with gait slowing and poor balance were more likely to develop dementia, and among participants with possible mild cognitive impairment, those with poor handgrip were more likely to develop dementia.  These findings suggest that gait slowing and poor balance might relate to dementia and may occur during an earlier stage before cognitive impairment is apparent, and that poor handgrip might relate to dementia during a later stage when cognitive impairment has occurred.  If confirmed, this study might also help explain the association of physical exercise with a reduced risk of dementia, suggesting that exercise, by improving and maintaining physical function, might benefit cognitive function through a connection between the two."

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Dan Wilson
Best Syndication

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Keywords and Misspellings:  altimers alzeimer's altimer's diseese disese oldtimers oldtimer's Altzimer's Altzimers

Important:  The material on Best Syndication is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness program.

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                   Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:51 PM