Abnormal Gait May Predict Dementia

Published Online: Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia. The first is Alzheimer?s disease. Unlike Alzheimer?s disease, however, which cannot be predicted, an early sign of vascular dementia may be a change in the way the patient walks. The findings of a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine
(November 28, 2002), suggest that seniors with an odd gait are 3.5 times more likely to develop non-Alzheimer?s dementia in the future.

The best predictors are a ?hemiparetic gait,? in which the legs are swung outward in a semicircle; a ?frontal gait? of short steps in which the feet barely leave the floor; and an unsteady, swaying gait and loss of balance. The authors suggest that patients with these gaits be given blood pressure?lowering drugs to prevent stroke-induced vascular dementia.

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