According to research released in July, scientists say that the way a person walks may help in identifying those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Researchers looked at numerous studies which measure cognitive functions and how a person walks, such as the average length of their strides, how quickly they walked, as well as their walking cadence or pattern. In what the researchers are calling a “robust” finding, many people who had Alzheimer’s disease exhibited a change in walking style before other symptoms appeared.
Alzheimer’s disease currently affects nearly 5 1/2 million Americans, and an estimated 16 million will be affected by the time the baby boomer generation has reached old age by 2050. The researchers say that the change in walking style is the first behavioral symptoms that might be identifiable as a way to spot the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Early detection is vital to people with Alzheimer’s because there is currently no cure available. There are treatments which can slow the progression of the disease, but these depend on early detection. If detected early enough, the condition can be slowed considerably, offering people with the disease a much better prognosis.
The changes in walking style may arise because Alzheimer’s disease affects all parts of the brain. The body needs different parts of the brain to communicate effectively in order to carry out complicated motor functions such as walking. When Alzheimer’s begins limiting how effectively the different parts of the brain can communicate, the person’s walking style changes.