Many bodily functions change as a person gets older. Lifestyle plays a huge role in how the body remains in full function until the senior years. For this reason, experts highly recommend a healthier lifestyle that involves a balanced diet and a sustainable workout routine. Exercising is vital to maintain body strength, and healthy weight, and to prevent vulnerability to diseases. Old age can reduce muscle strength, which leads to difficulties in navigating daily life. Apart from that, the decline in muscle strength was claimed as a dementia risk factor. A recent study found a link between the two — adding another precaution that may help in avoiding the neurological condition.
Being aware of dementia risk factors is crucial, primarily when a permanent cure is not yet available. Before a person reaches their 60s, they should be discussing dementia risks with their physician to further avoid development. Researchers have been dedicating their time to finding more answers to prevent and treat dementia. Losing muscle strength is a risk factor that researchers from ECU’s Nutrition & Health Innovation Research Institute and Centre for Precision Health have discovered. Late-life dementia can develop after the first signs of having difficulty with sitting, walking, and other movements.
The University of Western Australia also contributed to the investigation. To test the theory, they gathered data from the Perth Longitudinal Study of Ageing in Women. They analyzed 1000 women at the age of 75 years old. Each woman’s grip strength and timed-up-and-go performance were examined. To make the test results more reliable, the women underwent the same exam after five years to see any changes in muscle movement. The results over the next 15 years showed 17% of the participants acquired dementia. Furthermore, the significant factors that were linked to the illness were deduced to lower grip strength and slower TUG. Women with the weakest grip strength and slower TUG exams are twice as susceptible to neurological disorders.
“Because these functional tests are likely to provide a snapshot of current health status, I would not say the results are surprising. Especially since we know that people who struggle with daily activities of living due to physical limitations are less likely to engage in exercise-a major risk factor for dementia,” Dr. Marc Sim said. “What was of interest to me was the high dementia risk associated with declining function over five years, where those with the greatest decline were at the highest risk. This is also an important point for clinicians to consider.”
Based on the findings, those with weakened grip strength and reduced TUG speed were at 2 and 2.5 times higher risk of acquiring dementia. Whereas, women with the lowest TUG performance were over four times more likely to experience dementia-related death. “Possibly due to a range of underlying similarities, grip strength may also present as a surrogate measure of cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and frailty, which are known risk factors for dementia,” Dr. Sim explained. The doctor also mentioned the vitality of muscle strength testing as part of dementia screening. Through the strength test, physicians can determine the lifestyle changes the patient should do. Moreover, dementia can be detected earlier, and other precautionary measures can be done to hinder dementia development.
“We are now starting to see a number of simple yet indicative screening assessments that could be combined with other biological and clinical measures to provide a holistic risk-profile for individuals presenting to their GP with, for example, memory concerns,” Centre for Precision Health Director Professor Simon Laws shared. Although the research only involved women, the team believes that the findings are also applicable to men. Additional research will surely be conducted to further help healthcare providers identify early signs of dementia threat. They are hopeful that their discovery can produce more treatments and methods of preventing late-life dementia. The neurological disorder has already affected 55.2 million people all over the world. Medical researchers are on a mission to lower the cases in the coming years.
Dr. Raphi Wald, a board-certified neuropsychologist at Marcus Neuroscience Institute shared his insights about the study’s claims. He was not involved with the research but has found the results useful as they confirmed the relationship between grip strength loss and cognitive decline. “There are a number of often subclinical signs and symptoms of dementia that pop up before serious deterioration begins. This is another hint for doctors that a process may be beginning and needs to be addressed,” he said. “I think it would be helpful to have more information about those patients that successfully address their muscle weakness and how much it decreases their risk for dementia once they do so.”
Several studies support the relationship between muscle strength and dementia risk. Research published in Neurology discovered that women engaging in regular exercises such as walking lowered their risk of cognitive decline. Researchers collected data by involving about 7,000 women beyond the age of 65. The investigation continued for up to 20 years. In another study from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists emphasized the effectiveness of both physical and cognitive training in preventing dementia. More discoveries will be shared with the world to provide more hope in reducing cases. While waiting for a cure, it’s best to opt for prevention and discuss concerns with your doctor.