How a simple handshake could serve as an indicator for dementia risk

Oct 10, 2022
Source: Getty Images.

A handshake is typically considered a friendly greeting, however, researchers at Monash University have found the traditional social practice could help determine one’s risk for developing dementia.

As part of the Combination of gait speed and grip strength to predict cognitive decline and dementia study, researchers found that a slow walking pace when combined with weak hand grip served as a strong indicator of eventual cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.

The study examined data from over 18,000 initially healthy adults, who were mostly aged 70 and older, and found that a combined poor gait speed and grip strength was connected to a 79 per cent increased risk of dementia and a 43 per cent increased risk of cognitive decline.

The risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive decline was indicated to be highest when gait and grip declined simultaneously, with an 89 per cent increased risk of dementia and 55 per cent increased risk of cognitive decline over the five-year study period.

The study is the first instance in which the two physical actions have been studied together to determine their combined link with changes to cognitive function.

Of all the study participants, 2773 developed cognitive decline and 558 dementia.

Lead author Dr Suzanne Orchard, a Senior Research Fellow with Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said the research highlighted the link which exists between age-related cognitive and physical decline.

“Poor physical function may be a marker of future risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and thus, understanding this association could enhance early detection and prevention strategies,” Orchard said.

“While there are currently no cures for dementia, if identified early, treatment strategies can be implemented to slow its progression and manage the symptoms.”

Researchers are hopeful that grip strength and gait speed assessments will be adopted by general practitioners to identify a patient’s risk of developing dementia and allow for treatment options that will improve patient outcomes.

The recent findings build on a previous study from Monash University that suggested a slower walking speed in older age may be a sign of impending dementia.

“These findings underscore the importance of the method in assessing dementia risk,” said Daya Collier, a research fellow at Monash University School of Peninsular Medicine in Victoria, Australia.

According to Dementia Australia, dementia affects close to half a million Australians with almost 1.6 million Australians involved in their care.

The number of people living with dementia is expected to double in the next 25 years.


IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO: This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.


Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up