As we age, our muscles and joints go through many different changes. So it’s not unusual for seniors to slow down a bit when it comes to walking, but for some seniors, slowed walking may be a sign of mental decline, one study found.
Researchers spent 14 years watching 175 people, ages 70 to 79, who had normal mental function at the beginning of the study. Participants were regularly assessed throughout the years. The participants who developed slowed walking were found to have shrinkage of their right hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory and spatial orientation.
These findings suggest that although physicians usually refer seniors whose walking has slowed to physical therapist, it may be brain changes, rather than physical changes, that are causing a senior’s walk to slow down. Seniors whose walk has noticeably slowed should ask their doctor about the possibilities of mental decline.
Prevention and early treatment are still the best way doctors know how to ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. If mental decline is detected early enough, there are a number of treatment possibilities available to a patient.