Middle-aged people who tend to meander slowly when they walk may be more likely to develop dementia later in life, according to new research.
Another troubling sign of things to come: Weak hand strength may indicate a person is more likely to have a stroke.
The study findings -- to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans in April 28 – suggest simple tests (for walking speed and hand grip strength) may help doctors determine how likely a middle-aged person will develop dementia or stroke.
"These are basic office tests which can provide insight into risk of dementia and stroke and can be easily performed by a neurologist or general practitioner," said Dr. Erica C. Camargo, with Boston Medical Center, in a statement released with the findings.
To reach their conclusions, researchers tested the walking speed, grip strength and cognitive function of more than 2,400 men and women with an average age of 62. During the follow-up period of up to 11 years, 34 people developed dementia and 70 people had a stroke.
Researchers found people with a slower walking speed in middle age were 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia compared to people with faster walking speed. Stronger hand grip strength was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of stroke, compared to those with weaker hand grip strength.