Walking speed in late life may be an early marker of the development of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
In a study of elderly persons aged 70 years and older, 54 had intact cognition at baseline, 31 had nonamnestic MCI (naMCI; mainly characterized by language, visuospatial, attention, and other impairments rather than by memory problems) and eight had amnestic MCI (in which memory problems are the main impairment).
Over the course of a three-year monitoring period, the subjects with naMCI proved to be nine times more likely to have a slow average weekly walking speed than a fast or moderate speed. The degree of fluctuation in walking speed was also associated with MCI (Neurology. 2012;78; 1946-1952).
On a related note, the severity of diabetes may contribute to accelerated aging: Both diabetes and poor glucose control among well-functioning diabetes patients were associated with worse cognitive function and greater decline in a nine-year study of nearly 3,100 elderly adults (mean age 74.2 years). At the start of the study, 717 (23%) of the men and women had prevalent diabetes mellitus (DM) and 2,353 (76.6%) did not, but 159 members of the latter group developed DM throughout follow-up.
Those who had diabetes at baseline showed a faster cognitive decline than did those who developed diabetes during the course of the study, and members of both groups tended to have more marked cognitive decline than the men and women who never developed diabetes at all. More rapid cognitive declines were recorded in patients with more severe diabetes who had uncontrolled blood glucose levels, according to the report by Kristine Yaffe, MD, and fellow researchers published online ahead of print in Archives of Neurology.