It should not be surprising, but it is. Researchers have found a predictor of dementia in the speed of a person’s walk. What is more, the strength of a person’s grip in middle age is also a predictor of heart stroke. Who would think that a rapid walking pace and a firm handshake are symptoms of a healthier and longer old age?
A study by the Boston Medical Center published in the Journal of the American Medical Association proposes more evidence of a link between brisk walking in retirement and a longer life. Conversely of course frailty and slower physical movement is more associated with dementia. The latest study extends that connection into middle age. The researchers scanned the brains, measured the walking speed, and recorded the handshake firmness of over 2400 people with an average age of 62.
It was a longitudinal study where 11 years after the first measurements 34 of the participants had developed dementia while 79 of them had strokes. A lower walking pace predicted a raised risk of dementia and the stronger the handshake the less likely the stroke. The tests can be carried out during routine doctor visits and are therefore another tool for doctors in making diagnoses and remedial interventions. A lot more research is need to explain the mechanisms that link these factors. Is the pre-clinical dementia causing the slow walk or vice versa?
In advance of this research and understanding, there is a great deal people can do to help themselves avoid dementia and stroke, the twin horrors of the elderly. The Alzheimer’s society has three recommendations; 1) Eat more real food, especially plants. Real food probably doesn’t come pre-packaged and shrink wrapped, if it does it won’t have more than 5 ingredients on the nutrition label. It certainly won’t have ‘E’ numbers. 2) Do more exercise for both your body and your mind. A brisk 30 minute walk every other day as a minimum.
Keep reading, keep learning and maintain social contact and discussion. Puzzles and learning something new, such as a second or third language are excellent ways to prevent brain cell deterioration. If you smoke, STOP IT NOW! 3) Have regular health checks and act on early warning signs of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The Stroke Association know only too well that sufferers are invariably left with varying degrees of physical disability, often weakness in the hands and the need for assistance to walk even short distances. That these two symptoms could be precursors to stroke will not surprise anybody but the Boston research is the first official confirmation of linked symptoms ahead of a stroke.
[box type=”important”]The human heart is a muscle. Regular vigorous exercise will build that muscle and its resistance to stroke. As with Alzheimer’s disease the best thing you can do right now to avoid a stroke in later life is to stop smoking and avoid secondary smoke inhalation.[/box]