Researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU) recently studied over a thousand women around the age of 75 and looked at two speed and strength measurements: grip strength (an important indicator of overall health and longevity) and a metric called “timed up and go,” TUG (in which people are timed as they get up from a chair, walk a short distance, and return to the chair1).
For over 15 years, scientists monitored these women for declines in speed and strength metrics. They found that women with significant declines in these areas were up to twice as likely as their counterparts to have a late-life dementia event (either a dementia-related hospitalization or death).
And while this might sound alarming to anyone getting older or watching their loved ones slow down with age, it is important to remember two things: For starters, some decline in strength and speed is normal for anyone in their 70s, especially if relatively mild. Also, early-stage research and findings like this may help identify early-stage dementia and encourage preventative therapies that can help stave off cognitive decline.
“Incorporating muscle function tests as part of dementia screening could be useful to identify high-risk individuals, who might then benefit from primary prevention programs aimed at preventing the onset of the condition such as a healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle,” study author Marc Sim, Ph.D. said in a statement.
Sim adds that grip strength and TUG tests aren’t currently performed in clinical practice, but both are inexpensive and simple assesments that could be introduced as part of dementia screening.