Gait changes – especially slowed gait – are an early marker of dementia and should factor into routine cognitive function testing, say the editors of a recent supplement to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

A number of large epidemiological studies – compiled in the supplement – support a growing consensus that gait disorders may predict who is at risk of progressing to dementia, reported guest editor Manuel Montero-Odasso, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues.

In one study, for example, senior participants whose normal walking gait slowed by more than 20% when they were given a task to complete had a seven-fold increased risk for developing dementia within five years. 

“We believe that gait, as a complex brain-motor task, provides a golden window of opportunity to detect individuals at higher risk of dementia,” said Montero-Odasso. These are the people who can benefit the most from testing and early interventions, he concluded. 

The journal supplement presents quantitative gait analyses. It also evaluates screening tools that can be used to help develop strategies for preventing or delaying the onset of cognitive decline.