Tests to Detect Dementia and Stroke Risk?

How fast do you walk? How strong is your hand grip? A new study suggests simple tests like these may help doctors figure out the likelihood of a middle-aged person developing dementia or having a stroke.

Researchers at Boston Medical Center studied 2,400 men and women with an average age of 62, who underwent tests of hand grip strength, walking speed and cognitive function, as well as brain scans. Over the follow-up period of up to 11 years, 70 subjects suffered a stroke and 34 people developed dementia. The authors of the study found people who walked more slowly in middle age were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia compared to people who walked faster. People over the age of 65 with a stronger hand grip had a 42 percent lower risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), but this association was not found for study subjects younger than 65.

The investigators also learned that slower walking speed was linked with poorer performance on decision-making, memory and language tests, along with lower total cerebral brain volume. And they found that stronger hand grip strength was associated with larger total cerebral brain volume plus better performance on cognitive tests that asked people to identify similarities between objects.

They say more research is necessary to better understand these links and to see if “preclinical disease” could actually cause slower walking and a decrease in strength.