Memory loss and confusion are, for the time being, the first signals of dementia onset. However, scientists believe and some of the studies confirm that physical impairment such as walking and balance problems could be early indicators of future dementia while poor handgrip was a later sign.

Dementia seriously impairs every day’s activities of the sufferers’. The symptoms range from having trouble finding the right words to performing multiple tasks. Of all dementia disorders, Alzheimer's disease is the most common type, affecting around 4.5 million people in the States alone.

The researchers followed over 2,200 adults aged 65 and older in the course of six years. None of the study participants showed any signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease at the beginning of the study. Their physical and mental abilities were assessed before the study began and then again every two years. By the end of the study, six years after, 319 people had developed dementia, 221 of which Alzheimer's disease.

The study results showed that those people who had the highest physical performance scores at the start of the study were three times less likely to develop dementia. The results give evidence that there is a link between the mind and the body.

Both cognitive and physical functions are determined by a combination of mental and physical fitness. Both brain and muscles need blood and oxygen to work properly. So, if we take care of our body, which is what physical fitness does, we are preserving our brain from cognitive decline. Also, if we maintain our brain functioning by exercising it, we will be improving our ability to stay physically active.

The researchers are encouraging the elderly people to consult a personal trainer or a physical therapist to help them start a fitness program.
There is still a question mark whether exercise would prevent mental decline. What is known is that those who exercise are certainly less likely to suffer from cognitive decline.

Although the association between physical health and mental function has not been confirmed 100%, the researchers are hoping that these findings will serve as a motivator to either keep people active or to become active if they're not.

It is now up to the scientists to develop new tools sensitive enough to catch physical and cognitive changes at very early stages since dementia is mostly detected in advanced stages when there’s not much that can be done about it.

By detecting the indicators the person may be on the path to dementia, it may be easier to target better therapies that might prevent the onset the cognitive decline or at least prepare the ground for the person in the family to face the disease.