Study investigates link between poor physical performance and dementia in 90 year olds

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Poor physical performance in activities such as walking are associated with increased risk of dementia in 90 years and older individuals. A study published online first in Archives of Neurology suggests.

Previous studies have suggested a relationship between poor physical performance and cognitive impairment in the younger elderly populations, according to the study background, but patients ages 90> are not a well studied segment of society.

The study conducted by Szofia S Bullain and colleagues, University of California, Irvine, USA, involved 629 participants from the 90> study on aging and dementia performed at the university from January 2003 to November 2009. The average age of participants was 94 years, and 72.5% were women.


“Our cross-sectional study found a strong dose-dependent association between poor physical performance and dementia in the oldest old, with higher odds of dementia associated with poorer physical performance,” the authors said. “The results reveal that even modest declines in physical performance are associated with increased odds of dementia. The strongest association is seen with gait slowing, followed by five chair stands, grip strength and standing balance.”


The risk ratios for every unit decrease in a physical performance score were 2.1 for a four metre walk, 2.1 for chair stands, 1.9 for standing balance and 1.7 for grip strength, according to the study results.


Participants who were unable to walk (score of 0) “were almost 30 times more likely to have dementia than people with the fastest walking time,” according to the results. Even minimal slowing in the walking speed (less than or equal to 1.5 seconds, from score four to score three) was associated with four times greater risk of dementia.


“In summary, similar to younger elderly populations, our study found that poor physical performance is associated with increased odds of dementia in the oldest old. The establishment of this association may serve as a major stepping stone to further investigate whether poor physical performance is in the causal pathway and a potentially modifiable risk factor for late-age dementia,” the authors concluded.

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