Prospective studies in the general population show that slow gait speed is associated with cognitive decline and clinical progression to dementia. However, longitudinal studies in memory clinic populations are mostly lacking. We aimed to study the association between gait speed and grip strength and cognitive functioning at baseline and cognitive decline over time in memory clinic patients with subjective cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment.
We included 309 patients (age 70 ± 9 years, 108 [35%] women, Mini-Mental State Examination 27 ± 3 points). Baseline gait speed was assessed over 15 feet, grip strength with a hydraulic hand dynamometer. Cognitive functioning was assessed annually with a comprehensive test battery during 3 years.
Age- and gender-adjusted linear mixed models showed that slower gait speed was related to worse baseline attention, memory, information processing speed, and verbal fluency. Longitudinally, gait speed was related to decline in information processing speed and executive functioning. Weaker grip strength was related to worse baseline information processing speed and executive functioning but there were no longitudinal associations. Cox proportional hazards models revealed no significant associations with clinical progression.
Our findings suggest that markers of physical performance are related to current cognitive status and modestly related to cognitive decline but are seemingly not useful as an early marker of incident clinical progression.