A new study from Australia has found two early indicators that a person could develop dementia long before any noticeable symptoms appear.
Research from Monash University has indicated that a combination of poor gait and poor grip could indicate a higher risk of dementia.
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The study of 18,000 initially healthy adults, mostly aged 70 or older, found that slow walking speed combined with poor hand grip was linked to a 79% increased risk of dementia and a 43% increased risk of cognitive decline.
The risk of dementia or cognitive decline was highest when gait and grip decreased simultaneously over the nearly five-year study period.
The researchers say the study is the first time the two combined physical measures have been assessed for their correlation with changes in cognitive function.
Lead author Dr. Suzanne Orchard, a senior researcher at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said it showed a strong link between age-related decline in cognitive function and physical.
“Poor physical function may be a marker of future risk for cognitive decline and dementia, and so understanding this association could improve early detection and prevention strategies,” Orchard said.
“Although there is currently no cure for dementia, if identified early, treatment strategies can be implemented to slow its progression and manage symptoms.”
She said simple grip and walking speed tests could be implemented by GPs and other healthcare professionals.
The study was conducted using data from a large clinical trial and the results represented a range of variables including age, gender and baseline cognitive level.
Dementia experts have recently called for specialist care to be recognized as a human right.
The call from world-renowned experts follows new data showing that up to 85% of the more than 55 million people with dementia may not receive care, treatment or support after diagnosis.
Pressure on global healthcare systems during the pandemic has further exacerbated the ability of healthcare professionals to provide adequate treatment, care and post-diagnostic support to people with dementia, said Professor Henry Brodaty of the UNSW.
In 2021, it was estimated that there were up to 472,000 Australians living with dementia, according to government statistics.