Your walking speed and the strength of your grip may help determine how likely you are to develop dementia or stroke.
According to research conducted at the Boston Medical Center, these tests can easily be conducted by a neurologist or GP on middle aged patients.
The study looked at 2,400 men and women with an average age of 62 over 11 years, testing them for walking speed, hand grip strength and cognitive function.
It found that people with a slower walking speed in middle age were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia compared to those who walked faster.
Those with a stronger hand grip had a 42 per cent lower risk of stroke or transient ischemic attack when aged over 65, as compared to those with a weaker grip. However this finding did not apply to those under the age of 65.
'While frailty and lower physical performance in elderly people have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, we weren't sure until now how it impacted people of middle age,' said Dr Erica C. Camargo from Boston Medical Center.
The tests also found that slower walking was associated with lower total cerebral brain volume and poorer performance on memory, language and decision-making tests.
Stronger hand grip strength was linked with larger total cerebral brain volume and better performance on cognitive tests.
'Further research is needed to understand why this is happening and whether preclinical disease could cause slow walking and decreased strength,' Dr Camargo said.
The research results were published today and will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in April.