Five studies recently presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver provide evidence that when a person’s walk becomes slower, and less controlled his cognitive function is also suffering. “Changes in walking may predate actually observable cognitive changes in people who are on their way to developing dementia” said Molly Wagster, chief of the National Institute on Aging’s behavioral and systems neuroscience branch.

Dr. Stephanie Studenski, a geriatrician at the University of Pittsburgh likens it to driving a car.  We need an engine, a chassis and steering.  The engine of walking is the heart, lungs and blood.  The chassis is the muscle joints and bones, and the steering is our wiring, the nervous system.  “People who are focused on cognition largely never watch people move.  The tests are all done sitting down.  But damage to the wiring is an important shared problem of difficulty with thinking and difficulty with moving.” While these studies provide evidence that walking can provide early clues to dementia, it seems to also reinforce the belief that physical activity can help fend off dementia.

These new findings suggest that looking at a patient’s walk should be part of routine exams in the doctor’s office.  Dr Stephanie Bridenbaugh of the Basel Mobility Center in Switzerland believes that when a patient is in the office, and the doctor listens to his or her heart it should be a basic part of the exam to see how the patient walks….. Ny Times July 17, 2012


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