Slow walking speed may signal Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published online on Dec 2 in Neurology. Scientists state how fast elderly people walk could be linked to the disease.

The study found the connection between the amount of amyloid protein buildup in the brain and the slow walking speed in the elderly. A slow pace could indicate the possibility of Alzheimer’s before manifesting clinical symptoms such as rambling speech, wandering, impaired memory, hallucinations, change in mobility and inability to express themselves.

"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," said Natalia del Campo, one of the study’s authors from the Gerontopole and the Centre of Excellence in Neurodegeneration of Toulouse in France, the Daily Telegraph notes. She underlines that the study does not prove that amyloid build up cause the slow pace, instead it only shows the association.

The researchers studied 128 people aged 70 and above. The subjects underwent brain scans to measure the amyloid plaques in their brains. The team conducted thinking and memory assessment tests, as well as tests to analyse their walking speed.

Thomas Wisniewski, director of the New York University Langone Center for Cognitive Neurology, told CBS News that this study builds on existing data showing the benefits of being fit. However, he says that slow walkers should not necessarily panic because there are many causes of a slow speed that have nothing to do with how the brain operates.

“Research has already shown that people with Alzheimer’s disease may have difficulties with walking,” claimed Louise Walker, research officer at Alzheimer’s Society. “More long-term research is needed to determine whether a build-up of the protein amyloid, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, directly leads to slower walking and whether this could form a suitable part of a clinician’s diagnostic process.”

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