Dementia is predominantly associated with advancing age. So, as the average age of humans on planet Earth steadily rises, the burden of dementia is set to increase.
Currently, there is no cure; however, starting treatment early is associated with better outcomes. Because of this, researchers are focused on finding ways to predict who is most likely to develop dementia.
Also, certain factors increase the risk of dementia, including hypertension and sedentary behavior. Understanding which groups tend to develop dementia helps scientists and doctors identify and manage further risk factors.
Dual declines and dementia
One of the earliest symptoms of dementia is memory loss; however, many people experience cognitive decline with age, and this does not necessarily progress to dementia.
As a result, memory loss, on its own, is not a reliable way to predict dementia risk.
Some studies have concluded that slower walking speed, or slow gait, might also predict dementia risk. However, overall, it seems that the effect size is quite small and that gait speed alone is not a useful diagnostic measure.
Another study concluded that individuals whose memory and gait speed declined together were most at risk of developing dementia. But because this study included a relatively small group of individuals, all of whom had been admitted to geriatric clinics, it is not clear whether the results apply to the population at large.
With these findings in mind, a group of researchers set out to understand whether declining memory and walking speed, taken together, might be associated with increased dementia risk.
If their theory was correct, this so-called dual decline might become a useful way to predict those at most risk.
The researchers have published their findings in the journal Geriatrics.