The shuffle. It’s something we’ve come to accept as a normal part of aging, or as a result of certain medical conditions—following a stroke or coinciding with the onset of Parkinson’s. But what if there was more to this sometimes-gradual change in a person’s gait? What if it indicated a shift in cognitive function? Research is beginning to investigate possible connections between the way people walk and how they think, and the possibility that changes in gait may be an early indicator of cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent studies suggest that thinking skills—memory, planning activities or processing information—decline at nearly the same rate as the ability to walk smoothly. Increasingly, information points to a correlation between trouble walking and difficulty thinking, and this correlation could lead to developing a simple method of forecast, and possibly diagnosing, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Some studies utilize a dual-tasking testing system to help uncover problems, asking subjects to simultaneously perform thinking and movement tasks, walking while counting to 50, for example. While still inconclusive, the results of these tests —which revealed that subjects who walked more slowly or inconsistently did worse on cognitive tests, with the worst of these suffering the most severe Alzheimer’s—may indicate that the brain is sufficiently compromised as to be unable to coordinate and efficiently manage more than one task.
Once the studies have gathered conclusive findings, the hope is to integrate an observation-based screening protocol that can be used during routine examinations by doctors, or physical therapy sessions.
As mobility and accessibility needs change, Symbius Medical is here to help you every step of the way. Our customer service representatives are available to answer your questions about aids to everyday living, and to help you decide what equipment is best for you or your loved one.