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Simple Test May Help Determine Dementia Risk

Many tests used to diagnose a person’s risk for dementia are expensive and need to be administered by a neurologist using expensive equipment. A recent study suggests that a test measuring how fast people walk and whether they have cognitive complaints may be capable of diagnosing motoric cognitive risk syndrome, a pre-dementia syndrome.

Participants in the analysis included 26,802 people who took part in a total of 22 studies. All of the participants were older than 60 and without dementia or disability. However, 9.7% of them met the criteria for motoric cognitive risk syndrome, i.e. slow walking speed and cognitive complaints.

The researchers focused on four of the studies, with a total of 4,812 people, to test if motoric cognitive risk syndrome accurately predicts future dementia. They evaluated the participants every year for 12 years and found that those who met the criteria for motoric cognitive risk syndrome were twice as likely to develop dementia than those who did not.

Once a person is diagnosed with motoric cognitive risk syndrome, they should be evaluated to determine the cause of their slow gait and cognitive dysfunction. Treatable conditions such as hypertension, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity can interfere with blood flow to the brain and increase the risk of developing dementia.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on July 16, 2014, in the journal Neurology.

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