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Cognitive decline in elderly linked to slow gait

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK Apr 20 (Reuters) Elderly people who retain their mental sharpness are likely to walk at a speedier -- and safer -- rate than those who've suffered a decline in cognitive skills, researchers report.

Dr Roee Holtzer, of Yeshiva University in the Bronx, and colleagues examined whether IQ and tests of mental agility, as well as memory, were associated with walking speed in 186 adults 70 years of age or older. The researchers tested the subjects' gait speed with or without a verbal distraction -- walking while reciting alternate letters of the alphabet.

Gait performance tested without interference was predicted by the subjects' performance on all the mental tests, the team reports in the medical journal Neuropsychology. Only some aspects of mental performance -- memory and what's termed executive control -- predicted gait performance tested with interference.

Gait velocity tested with interference is more representative of walking in public, in which walkers constantly deal with distraction, the investigators note.

They also point out that slow gait is a significant risk factor for falls among the elderly, so the findings may help explain why cognitive problems or dementia are often associated with falls in older adults.


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