Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have found in a new study that slow walking pace and memory hitches could be signs of a doubled risk of having dementia at some point.
The team found that individuals suffering from Motoric Cognitive Risk (MCR) syndrome are equally at a greater of developing cognitive impairment at a later time. Mortality rates are also higher among these people, the study showed.
MCR is a condition that presents both motor and cognitive symptoms. Characterized by a slow walking pace and memory complaints, it is regarded as a predementia syndrome.
Dementia is a big problem across the globe and looks set to become a bigger challenge in the future. An estimated 50 million people live with the condition worldwide. That number is expected to triple three decades from now, placing a greater burden on families and countries.
Increased dementia and cognitive impairment risks
To make their findings, the scientists examined the data of nearly 50,000 people who were at least 60 years old. These elderly individuals had MCR and were spread across over a dozen studies.
Eligibility criteria for participant inclusion were slower walking speed – compared to peers – and self-reported memory troubles. These are typical symptoms of MCR.
The team observed that MCR made people two times as likely to have dementia, compared to those without the syndrome.
People with the condition showed a 76 percent higher risk of cognitive impairment, compared to persons without. This means that they found it a lot more challenging recalling information, grasping new information, or concentrating.
It did not end there. Having MCR seems to increase the risk of dying – by 49 percent in the study. Fall risk was also 38 percent higher among people with the syndrome.
However, researchers said it was not possible to tell whether MCR could be blamed for those effects or was merely a risk factor.
Routine assessment could help
Dementia places a huge financial burden on patients and their families. For instance, almost £35 billion is spent on care for individuals with this disorder in the UK each year.
Researchers in the current study expressed hope that their study would lead to routine MCR assessment as a precaution against dementia. It is easy, low-cost, and fast to do these checks.
Dr. Donncha Mullin, from the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said combining this check with the regular assessment of people having memory issues could make it easier for doctors to spot more accurately those with dementia risk. This will, in particular, be helpful in settings with little or no access to the latest tests for the mental disorder.
“Importantly, our findings remained after taking into account other factors such as age and education level, as well as a past history of depression, stroke, or heart attacks,” Mullin said.
There is a need for more research before MCR will be ready for clinical use, the researchers said.