CHICAGO - Even short bouts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity appear to have cognitive benefits for middle-age adults and walking more total steps each day is related to better executive function in older adults, according to new research studies published by the Alzheimer's Association's family of journals.
In an analysis of data from about 2,700 middle-age and older participants in subgroups from the Framingham Heart Study, researchers from Boston University Medical Campus assessed physical activity as well as tests to evaluate thinking and planning skills, memory and word recall. The study authors report 10 to 21 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity related to better thinking and planning skills for middle-age adults and 10-minutes per day was associated with better verbal memory. For older adults, the total amount of physical activity rather than the intensity was associated with maintaining cognition.
The study is published by Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, a peer-reviewed open access journal from the Alzheimer's Association.
A new study in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association reports that recent progression of hearing loss in women is associated with a higher risk of perceived concerns about thinking memory. Previous studies have found similar associations in men, but this is the first such finding in women. Hearing loss is common, increases with age, and has been found to be associated with poor cognitive performance.
Researchers from Brigham & Women's Hospital, Boston, investigated the relationship between self-reported hearing loss and the risk of subjective cognitive decline among more than 20,000 women, 66 years and older, participating in the Nurses' Health Study. Subjective cognitive decline was defined as a new report of at least one cognitive concern during a follow-up visit. The women had no subjective cognitive concerns at baseline. Study participants completed two follow-up questionnaires about their hearing status and answered memory-related questions.
In conclusion, the authors write: "Detection of early hearing decline may help identify those at higher risk for cognitive decline and offer a valuable opportunity for targeted interventions."
Two papers in the October issue of Alzheimer's & Dementia examine how walking patterns may be used as a potential indicator of cognitive decline and risk of dementia.
Researchers from Erasmus MC University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, evaluated gait and cognition in 4,528 dementia-free older adults. The researchers looked at the study participant's walking speed, stride width and time and variability of walking patterns. The participants were asked to walk as they usually would down a straight path on a gait evaluating device, also asked to make turns as they walked and to walk heel to toe. Participants underwent two cognitive assessments.
The study authors concluded that poor performance on several walking tests was strongly associated with subsequent decline in cognitive performance and risk of dementia.
In a related study, researchers from Newcastle University's Faculty of Medical Sciences, U.K., explored the role of cognition in disease-specific gait impairments. They found that people with different types of dementia express unique walking patterns. For instance, the study suggests that people with Lewy body dementia are more asymmetric when they move as compared to people with Alzheimer's dementia.
The researchers analyzed the walking styles of 110 people, including 29 older adults with no dementia, 36 with Alzheimer's disease and 45 with Lewy body dementia. The participants took the walking test on the same type of gait evaluating device as in the Rotterdam study.
While more research is needed, the authors suggest that gait analysis has potential as an inexpensive tool for diagnosing different types of dementia.
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