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Dementia: This is the first sign we are losing our mind

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The list of factors that have been linked to an increased risk of dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment is growing.

Around 50 million individuals worldwide suffer from dementia, with the number of patients predicted to rise in the next 20 years. Although the disease is now incurable, doctors believe that delaying its beginning by five years reduces the number of deaths by half.

A recent study led by experts from the University of Michigan and North Dakota State University followed more than 14,000 people who took part in the 2006 Health and Retirement Study, age 50 and older, for eight years.

They found that poor handgrip could be a sign of poor cognition and memory.

They discovered that every 5-kg decrease in handgrip strength was linked to a 10% increase in the risk of any cognitive impairment and an 18% increase in the risk of severe cognitive impairment.

They tested handgrip with a hand-held dynamometer and cognitive function with a modified Mini-Mental State Examination, which comprises assessments of orientation, attention, memory, language, and visual-spatial skills and is extensively used among the elderly.

The findings are relevant for providers and individuals seeking ways to maintain physical and mental function, according to study co-author Sheria Robinson-Lane, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.

According to first author Ryan McGrath, an assistant professor at North Dakota State University, the findings add to mounting evidence that doctors should incorporate grip strength––which is not currently used––in routine health exams for older persons.

More crucially, the findings were interpreted by the researchers to suggest that a loss of grip strength is linked to brain degeneration, emphasizing the need of muscle-building exercises.

“These findings suggest that this is another instance where you’re seeing that staying physically active affects your overall health and your cognitive health,” Robinson-Lane added.

Image Credit: Getty

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