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Changes in Cognition and Walking Speed May Be Indicative of Health Trajectory

As we age, we start to experience a decline in cognitive function and a slowing of our walking speed. According to a new study, changes in cognition and gait speed generally parallel each other and can be indicative of a person’s health trajectory.

One-hundred eighty-two Mexican Americans and 188 European Americans with an average age of 69 participated in the study. Cognitive function was evaluated using the mini-mental state examination. Gait speed was measured during a timed 10-foot walk. Participants were followed for an average of 9.5 years, and were grouped into one of three groups, based on changes in cognitive score and gait speed:

  • Relatively stable cognition and gait (65.4%);
  • Deteriorating cognition and gait (22.2%);
  • Stable cognition and deteriorating gait (12.4%).

Participants in the deteriorating cognition and gait group were more likely to be Mexican American, of older age, with lower educational attainment, reduced income, and diabetes. Participants in the deteriorating cognition and gait group had a fivefold increased risk of mortality compared to those in the relatively stable cognition and gait group. Participants in the stable cognition and deteriorating gait group had a seven-fold increased risk of mortality compared to those in the relatively stable cognition and gait group.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center. It was published online ahead of print on April 12, 2020 in the journal Geriatric Psychiatry.

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