Early Sign of Alzheimer's: The Way You Walk
Changes in gait could signal cognitive decline: studies
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2012 9:04 AM CDT
Changes in gait could signal cognitive decline: studies   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – For the first time, researchers have linked a physical symptom to Alzheimer's: Changes in the way you walk could be an early sign of the disease, USA Today reports. Researchers studied participants' gait two times, 15 months apart, and found that those with decreased cadence, velocity, and stride length also experienced more cognitive impairment. A second study found that "slower and more variable" gait was associated with the progression of cognitive decline.

The findings are important because changes in the way people walk may happen before any cognitive trouble becomes apparent, and until now doctors have had to diagnose Alzheimer's and similar problems via neurological exams. Assessing a person's gait could be cheaper and faster, notes one expert. "Walking and movements require a perfect and simultaneous integration of multiple areas of the brain," explains one researcher, so when brain circuitry is affected, it impacts walking.