A large survey of people from 50 to 89 years old was done to see if cognitive decline could be found by measuring the sagittal spinal balance using a radiological method. Tests revealed that the sagittal vertical axis (SVA) moving forward and getting older were both linked to lower cognitive function. Scientific Reports is where the results of their study are written up.
The length of a horizontal line from the posterior superior sacral end plate to a vertical plumbline dropped from the center of the C7 vertebral body is the sagittal vertical axis. When viewed from the side, a person is more likely to show signs of mild cognitive decline if their head and neck stick out in front of their pelvis. No matter how old a male was, the SVA was linked to cognitive decline. No matter how old the female was, cognitive decline was more likely if her SVA was equal to or greater than 70mm.
Mild cognitive impairment is when the person or their friends or family notice mental decline, but they do not have dementia. By catching mild cognitive impairment at an early, reversible stage in places where expensive special testing equipment or extra medical testing time for older people is limited, dementia, frailty, and being confined to a bed may be avoided. Hikaru Nishimura is the author. She is an occupational therapist who studies problems that older people face from a rehabilitation point of view. Exercise for older people could slow the decline that leads to dementia or even stop it from happening.
Researchers say that bad posture is a sign of weakness in older people. Posture screening can find hidden cognitive decline, which is a sign of frailty. For the mass survey, seniors were tested and it was found that older people with "anteriorization of the spine" were more likely to also have a decline in cognitive function.
When age and the amount of spinal imbalance were taken into account, cognitive decline could be reliably found. Males with SVA 100 mm at any age, SVA 90 mm at 70 years, and SVA 70 mm at 80 years were more likely to experience cognitive decline than females with SVA 70 mm at any age.
The study was conducted in Nagano, Japan, one of the places in the world where people live the longest and are the healthiest. With this study and others like it, doctors hope to find ways to treat frailty found during screenings that will keep people from needing care in the future.