To assess the directionality of the association between physical and cognitive decline in later life, we compared patterns of decline in performance across groups defined by baseline presence of cognitive and/or physical impairment [none (n = 217); physical only (n = 169); cognitive only (n = 158), or both (n = 220)] in a large sample of participants in a cognitive aging study at the Knight Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis who were followed for up to 8 years (3,079 observations). Rates of decline reached 20% for physical performance and varied across cognitive tests (global, memory, speed, executive function, and visuospatial skills). We found that physical decline was better predicted by baseline cognitive impairment (slope = -1.22, p<0.001), with baseline physical impairment not contributing to further decline in physical performance (slope = -0.25, p = 0.294). In turn, baseline physical impairment was only marginally associated with rate of cognitive decline across various cognitive domains. The cognitive-functional association is likely to operate in the direction of cognitive impairment to physical decline although physical impairment may also play a role in cognitive decline/dementia. Interventions to prevent further functional decline and development of disability and complete dependence may benefit if targeted to individuals with cognitive impairment who are at increased risk.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)