Study: The way you walk could identify specific types of dementia

Researchers analyzed the walking patterns of those with Alzheimer’s and Lewy body dementia

Your walking pattern could be an indicator of what type of dementia you may have, according to a new report.

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Researchers from Newcastle University recently conducted a study to explore the association between movement and two types of dementia: Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia.

To do so, they examined 110 adults who had Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia or neither. The subjects participated in a walking test, where they moved on a walkway that evaluated their footsteps.

After analyzing the results, they found people with Lewy body dementia had more irregular, asymmetric steps than those with Alzheimer’s. Lewy body dementia patients changed how long it took to take a step or the length of their steps more frequently than those with Alzheimer’s, who rarely changed their pattern at all.

"The way we walk can reflect changes in thinking and memory that highlight problems in our brain, such as dementia," co-author Riona McArdle said in a statement. "Correctly identifying what type of dementia someone has is important for clinicians and researchers as it allows patients to be given the most appropriate treatment for their needs as soon as possible."

Upon further investigation, the team determined “step length variability and step time asymmetry” could accurately identify 60% of all dementia subtypes, according to the study.

“The results from this study are exciting as they suggest that walking could be a useful tool to add to the diagnostic toolbox for dementia,” McArdle continued. “It is a key development as a more accurate diagnosis means that we know that people are getting the right treatment, care and management for the dementia they have.”

Want to learn more about their results? The findings were published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

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