It’s generally accepted that we will lose muscle strength and slow down as we age, making it more difficult to perform simple tasks such as getting up, walking and sitting down.
But new Edith Cowan University research indicates this could also be a signal for another sinister health concern of aging: late-life dementia.
To investigate the relationship between muscle function and dementia, the research teams used data from the Perth Longitudinal Study of Ageing in Women to examine more than 1000 women with an average age of 75.
The team measured the women’s grip strength and the time it took for them to rise from a chair, walk three meters, turn around and sit back down, known as a timed-up-and-go (TUG) test.
These tests were repeated after five years to monitor any loss of performance.
Over the next 15 years, almost 17 per cent of women involved in the study were found to have had a dementia event, categorized as a dementia-related hospitalization or death.
A similar relationship emerged between TUG performance and dementia, with the slowest in their TUG test more than twice as likely to experience dementia than the quickest.
Those who had experienced the biggest decline in grip strength and TUG speed were approximately 2 and 2.5 times more likely, respectively, to have had a dementia event, compared to those in the group who recorded the smallest decline in performance.
Women with the biggest drop in TUG performance were found to be over four times more likely to have a dementia-related death than the fastest.
The team found lower grip strength and slower TUG were significant risk factors for presenting with dementia, independent of genetic risk and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol intake and physical activity levels.
“Both grip strength and TUG tests aren’t commonly performed in clinical practice, but both are inexpensive and simple screening tools,” says Dr Sim.
“Incorporating muscle function tests as part of dementia screening could be useful to identify high-risk individuals, who might then benefit from primary prevention programs aimed at preventing the onset of the condition such as a healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle” he says.
Simone Radavelli‐Bagatini, Helen Macpherson, David Scott, Robin M. Daly, Jonathan M. Hodgson, Simon M. Laws, Kun Zhu, Richard L. Prince, Joshua R. Lewis, Marc Sim. Impaired muscle function, including its decline, is related to greater long‐term late‐life dementia risk in older women. Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, 2023; DOI: 10.1002/jcsm.13227
Edith Cowan University. “Slowing down in your old age? It may be a dementia warning sign: It’s generally accepted we will lose muscle strength and slow down as we age, but new research indicates this could also be a sign of a more sinister health concern of aging..” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/05/230501085855.htm>.
Photo by Steven HWG