A recent study published in Neurology has shown that walking speed of older adults can be indicative of their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers hypothesized that slow walking speed may be associated with plaque buildup in the brain, even if an older adult does not show external symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Amyloid plaques are believed to be the primary cause of damage that leads to Alzheimer’s. Amyloid precursor protein (APP) is produced throughout the body. Amyloid plaques hypothesis presumes that an error occurs when APP is processed in the brain, resulting in the making of a short fragment of APP, a sticky protein known as beta-amyloid. The clumps of beta-amyloid that form are called amyloid plaques. The accumulation of beta-amyloid triggers the loss of nerve cells that lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
According to head researcher Natalia del Campo, PhD, of the Gerontopole and the Center of Excellence in Neurodegeneration of Toulouse, in France, “It’s possible that having subtle walking disturbances in addition to memory concerns may signal Alzheimer’s disease, even before people show any clinical symptoms.” In addition, she notes that the study only shows a relationship and does not prove that amyloid plaques cause walking speed to decrease.