Now, a simple walking test to detect Alzheimer`s

Washington: How a person walks can be a clue to whether he has Alzheimer`s, after researchers found a link between the disease and a person`s gait.

Subtle changes in the way a person walks can be an early warning sign of cognitive decline and a signal for advanced testing, according to research released at the Alzheimer`s Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

The findings are the first to link a physical symptom to the disease, which up until now, required doctors to begin a diagnosis by focusing on cognition and administering lengthy neurological exams, `USA Today` reported.

They observed that walking changes can occur even before cognition decline surfaces.
"Monitoring deterioration and other changes in a person`s gait is ideal because it doesn`t require any expensive technology or take a lot of time to assess," Bill Thies, chief medical and scientific officer for the Alzheimer`s Association was quoted as saying by the paper.

"Walking and movements require a perfect and simultaneous integration of multiple areas of the brain," Rodolfo Savica, author of a study done at the Mayo Clinic, said.

Walking changes occur because the disease interferes with the circuitry between these areas of brain.

In the Mayo Clinic study in Rochester, Minn, researchers measured the stride length, cadence and velocity of more than 1,341 participants through a computerised gait instrument at two or more visits roughly 15 months apart.

It was found that people with lower cadence, velocity and length of stride experienced significantly larger declines in cognition, memory and executive function.

Another study of 1,153 adults with an average age of 78 by researchers at the Basel Mobility Center in Switzerland found gait became "slower and more variable as cognition decline progressed."