Do you worry that you – or someone you love – is at high risk for age-related cognitive decline, like dementia or Alzheimer’s? Here’s an early sign to watch out for: Walking more slowly than usual.
A team from Monash University in Australia led by Dr. Taya Collyer kept tabs on nearly 17 thousand retirees over a 7-year period. Study participants took periodic tests to measure memory, mental speed, verbal fluency, overall cognitive decline, and walking speed.
The result: Those walking at least 5% slower than the previous year, were at higher risk for dementia.
Dr. Collyer believes a declining walking speed is linked to shrinkage in the hippocampus, the brain area linked to memory, learning, and spatial navigation.
The good news is: We can slow the progress of age-related cognitive decline with consistent exercise! Psychologists from the University of Pittsburgh had seniors begin walking 10 minutes a day – and gradually increased it to 40 minutes a day.
The result: Study participants increased the size of their hippocampus by up to 2%, which shaved 1 to 2 years off their brain’s actual age.
Again, we now know one of the early signs of cognitive decline is a slower walking speed.
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