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London - Subtle changes in the way you walk can be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s before symptoms such as memory loss, say researchers.
The finding means patients could be given a simple walking test to see if they have the disease.
In one study, people with a shorter stride who took a reduced number of steps per minute also experienced memory problems and issues with cognition.
Another study found a person’s gait got “slower and more variable as cognition decline progressed”.
It is the first time a physical symptom has been linked so directly to the early stages of the disease, which affects around 500,000 people in the UK.
Both pieces of research were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada.
The first, from the US-based Mayo Clinic, involved monitoring how 1,341 participants walked through a gait sensor in two or more visits spaced 15 months apart.
The researchers say walking changes occur because the disease interferes with the brain circuitry that co-ordinates it.
The other study, involving 1,153 adults with an average age of 78, was carried out by the Basel Mobility Centre in Switzerland.
It found people with Alzheimer’s walked more slowly than those with mild cognitive impairment.
The researchers said an annual test might help detect the disease early and that relatives of Alzheimer’s patients often commented on how badly they were walking.
Bill Thies, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Alzheimer’s Association, said: “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.” - Daily Mail