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Slow walking pace a telltale sign for stroke in seniors

15 May 2020

Older adults who walk slowly appear to have an excess risk of stroke as compared with their peers who have an average walking pace, according to a recent study.

Researchers drew data from the UK Biobank and looked at 363,137 participants aged 37 to 73 years (52 percent female). Walking pace was slow (<3 mph) in 18,442 (5.1 percent) participants, average (3–4 mph) in 191,598 (52.7 percent) and brisk (>4 mph) in 153,097 (42.2 percent). A total of 2,705 (0.7 percent) fatal or nonfatal stroke events were recorded over a median follow-up of 6.1 years.

Slow walking pace was associated with a 45-percent higher risk of incident stroke incidence compared with an average pace (hazard ratio [HR], 1.45, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.26–1.66; p<0.0001). In a subgroup analysis defined by age, slow walking pace predicted stroke incidence among participants aged ≥65 years (HR, 1.42, 95 percent CI, 1.17–1.72; p<0.0001) but not among those <65 years of age.

On further analysis, stroke risk associated with walking pace varied by area-based deprivation status. Specifically, a risk increase was observed among slow walkers in the middle (HR, 1.28, 95 percent CI, 1.01–1.63; p=0.039) and higher (HR, 1.29, 95 percent CI, 1.05–1.69; p=0.012) deprivation category but not in the lowest category.

The association also differed by body mass index. A risk increase was seen in slow walkers who were overweight (HR, 1.30, 95 percent CI, 1.04–1.63; p=0.019) and obese (HR, 1.33, 95 percent CI, 1.09–1.63; p=0.004) but not those who were of normal weight.

The present data indicate that measurement of self-reported walking pace may be a useful screening tool for stroke risk in primary care or public health clinical consultations, according to the researchers.

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