Cognition and Gait Decline at Similar Rates

Cognition and Gait Decline
UT Health San Antonio studies 370 older adults over a decade to show that cognition and gait decline at parallel rates

A study published by UT Health San Antonio researchers found that cognition and gait speed tend to decline on a similar plane.

The researchers analyzed data from 370 participants in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA) and found that they grouped into three distinct trajectories. These classifications were based on the participants’ changes on a cognitive measure and a gait speed task over an average of almost 10 years:

  • Stable cognition and gait class (65.4% of the participants)
  • Cognitive and physical vulnerability class (22.2%)
  • Physical vulnerability class (12.4%)

“In our community-based sample of Mexican American and European American older adults aged 65 to 74 years old at baseline, the majority of individuals began the study with higher scores in both domains, cognition and gait speed. During follow-up, this group demonstrated resilience to age-related declines and continued to be functionally independent,” said study senior author Helen Hazuda, PhD, professor in UT Health San Antonio’s Long School of Medicine and the principal investigator of SALSA.

“In contrast, one-fifth of individuals began the study with lower scores in cognition and gait speed. They experienced deterioration in each domain during the follow-up period,” Dr. Hazuda said.

Cognition was assessed using English or Spanish versions of the Folstein Mini-Mental State Examination, a 30-item tool that assesses orientation to time and place, attention, recall, language and other aspects. Gait speed was measured with a timed 10-foot walk.

“For most of the population we studied, changes in cognition and gait speed were parallel, which suggests shared mechanisms,” said Mitzi M. Gonzales, PhD, lead author of the study and a neuropsychologist with the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, which is part of UT Health San Antonio.

SALSA investigators led by Dr. Hazuda launched the study in 1992 and completed the baseline examination in 1996. Follow-up examinations were conducted at 18-month intervals between 2000 and 2005.

Among the 370 participants in this new analysis, 182 were Mexican American and 188 were European American. The Mexican American participants were almost four times more likely than European Americans to be in the cognitive and physical vulnerability class, even after statistical adjustment for educational attainment, income and chronic medical conditions, Dr. Gonzales said.

SOURCE: Science Daily

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