The risk of developing dementia or strokes in later life can be measured by conducting tests of physical ability in middle-aged people, according to US researchers.
Experts led by Dr Eric Camargo of Boston Medical Center tested more than 2,400 participants with an average age of 62 over 11 years.
They were tested for walking speed, hand grip strength and mental function, and underwent brain scans.
Those with slower walking speeds tended to have a lower cerebral brain volume, leading to a poorer performance in memory, language and decision-making.
The scientists concluded the slower walkers were one and a half times more likely to develop disorders such as Alzheimer’s over the age of 65.
And they said those with a stronger grip had a 42% lower risk of stroke or mini-stroke, although the risk was not reduced at a younger age. Stronger grip signified a larger total cerebral brain volume.
Dr Camargo said: “These are basic office tests which can provide insight into risk of dementia and stroke and can be easily performed by a neurologist or general practitioner.”
The research will be presented at the 64th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in News Orleans in April.