Dementia is a common neurological disorder affecting over 50 million people worldwide. While there is no cure for it yet, preventative measures and early intervention can help make the progression less severe. To this end, it’s important to be able to identify early warning signs. A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that poor balance may be one of them.
For this study, researchers studied almost 600 adults age 90 and up. At baseline, over 56% of this group had normal cognitive function. The group’s physical abilities were assessed in different measures, including standing balance. Their results were recorded for future evaluation. The group received periodic checkups to see if any cognitive impairment developed.
It was found that those who did worse on the physical performance tests were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia later. Bad standing balance scores had the strongest association with dementia.
This study shows that there is a correlation between poor balance and dementia, particularly late-age dementia. However, there is no known reason, yet. The next step is for researchers to investigate disease processes to provide new clues as to why this is. These clues may be able to help create new preventative and treatment measures.
Bullain, Szofia S, et al. “Sound Body Sound Mind? Physical Performance and the Risk of Dementia in the Oldest-Old: The 90+ Study.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27377238.