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article imageStanding on one leg for 20 seconds can predict stroke risk

By Stephen Morgan     Dec 20, 2014 in Health
If you are unable to stand on one leg for more than 20 seconds, it can be a sign that you are at heightened risk of stroke, brain damage or reduced cognitive functioning.
A study by Japanese researchers has shown that otherwise healthy people can be at risk of brain abnormalities and show the early signs of cognitive decline, cerebral small vessel disease and stroke if they fail a simple test of standing on one foot for 20 seconds — even if they show no other signs or symptoms of such problems.
The study was published in the American Heart Association's journal, Stroke. According to Science Daily, a study of 841 women and 546 men with an average age of 67, who were asked to stand on one leg with their eyes open and one leg raised. The test was performed twice and the better of the two scores was recorded. This was then followed up with brain magnetic resonance imaging to identify cerebral small vessel disease.
The results showed that 34.5 percent of those with more than two lacunar infarction lesions had problems keeping their balancing and 16 percent with one lacunar infarction lesion did so.
30 percent of those with more than two microbleed lesions had trouble balancing and 15.3 percent with one microbleed lesion did.
It has been proven that such silent strokes or lacunar infarctions increase the risk of full strokes and dementia and are therefore an early warning sign of serious illnesses.
"One-leg standing time is a simple measure of postural instability and might be a consequence of the presence of brain abnormalities," said Yasuharu Tabara, Ph.D., lead study author and associate professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan.
"Our study found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health," he said "Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline." Poor test results were also associated with significantly lower scores on memory and thinking tests.
Dr. Richard Libman, chief of vascular neurology at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y., told Webmd that "narrowing or blockages of tiny blood vessels deep within the brain can give rise to small strokes or tiny amounts of bleeding."
"These small strokes, which are a major contributor to mental decline and dementia, have also been associated with walking and balance difficulty and falling"
"The authors of this study" he continued "have devised a simple test of balance, which seems to be able to reflect 'small vessel disease' of the brain."
Libman described the test as "an inexpensive, low-tech method to screen people for small vessel disease who are most likely at risk for further strokes and brain damage."
The Telegraph also added that earlier in the year a similar test by the Medical Research Council found that standing on one leg can predict risk of early death for 53-year-olds.
"Men aged 53 years old who could balance on one leg for more than ten seconds and stand up and sit down in a chair more than 37 times in a minute were found to be least at risk of dying early by the researchers." the paper said.
"Women of the same age" it continued "who could stand up and sit down more than 35 times in a minute and stand on one leg for more than ten seconds were also at the lowest risk compared to those who performed less well."
More about Stroke, Dementia, one leg, Standing