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Association of dual decline in cognition and gait speed with risk of dementia in older adults

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posted on 2023-05-21, 08:01 authored by Collyer, TA, Murray, AM, Woods, RL, Storey, E, Chong, TT, Ryan, J, Orchard, SG, Brodtmann, A, Srikanth, VK, Shah, RJ, Michele CallisayaMichele Callisaya

Importance Dual decline in gait speed and cognition has been found to be associated with increased dementia risk in previous studies. However, it is unclear if risks are conferred by a decline in domain-specific cognition and gait.

Objective To examine associations between dual decline in gait speed and cognition (ie, global, memory, processing speed, and verbal fluency) with risk of dementia.

Design, Setting, and Participants This cohort study used data from older adults in Australia and the US who participated in a randomized clinical trial testing low-dose aspirin between 2010 and 2017. Eligible participants in the original trial were aged 70 years or older, or 65 years or older for US participants identifying as African American or Hispanic. Data analysis was performed between October 2020 and November 2021

Exposures Gait speed, measured at 0, 2, 4, and 6 years and trial close-out in 2017. Cognitive measures included Modified Mini-Mental State examination (3MS) for global cognition, Hopkins Verbal Learning Test-Revised (HVLT-R) for memory, Symbol Digit Modalities (SDMT) for processing speed, and Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT-F) for verbal fluency, assessed at years 0, 1, 3, 5, and close-out. Participants were classified into 4 groups: dual decline in gait and cognition, gait decline only, cognitive decline only, and nondecliners. Cognitive decline was defined as membership of the lowest tertile of annual change. Gait decline was defined as a decline in gait speed of 0.05 m/s or greater per year across the study.

Main Outcomes and Measures Dementia (using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [Fourth Edition] criteria) was adjudicated by an expert panel using cognitive tests, functional status, and clinical records. Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate risk of dementia adjusting for covariates, with death as competing risk.

Results Of 19 114 randomized participants, 16 855 (88.2%) had longitudinal gait and cognitive data for inclusion in this study (mean [SD] age, 75.0 [4.4] years; 9435 women [56.0%], 7558 participants [44.8%] with 12 or more years of education). Compared with nondecliners, risk of dementia was highest in the gait plus HVLT-R decliners (hazard ratio [HR], 24.7; 95% CI, 16.3-37.3), followed by the gait plus 3MS (HR, 22.2; 95% CI, 15.0-32.9), gait plus COWAT-F (HR, 4.7; 95% CI, 3.5-6.3), and gait plus SDMT (HR, 4.3; 95% CI, 3.2-5.8) groups. Dual decliners had a higher risk of dementia than those with either gait or cognitive decline alone for 3MS and HVLT-R.

Conclusions and Relevance Of domains examined, the combination of decline in gait speed with memory had the strongest association with dementia risk. These findings support the inclusion of gait speed in dementia risk screening assessments.


National Health & Medical Research Council


Publication title

JAMA Network Open










Menzies Institute for Medical Research


American Medical Association

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

©2022 Collyer TA et al. JAMA Network Open. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License.©2022 Collyer TA et al. JAMA Network Open.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Primary care

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