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Published on: December 19, 2014
by Sarah Knapton for The Telegraph:
Balancing on one leg may indicate if a person is at risk of dementia or stroke, a study has found.
Scientists found that an inability to stand on one leg for more than 20 seconds was associated with microbleeds and “silent” strokes.
Although the brain injuries were too small to cause symptoms, scientists warned they could indicate growing problems.
Silent strokes, or lacunar infarctions, are known to increase the risk of both full-blown strokes and dementia.
Lead researcher Dr Yasuharu Tabara, from Kyoto University in Japan, said: “Our study found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health.
“Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline.”
The scientists looked at 841 women and 546 men with an average age of 67 who were asked to stand with their eyes open and one leg raised for a maximum of 60 seconds.
Participants performed the test twice and the better of the two times was used in the study analysis.
They also had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to assess their levels of cerebral small vessel disease, which can interfere with blood flow in the brain.
The research, published in the journal Stroke, showed that 34.5 of those with more than two lacunar infarction lesions had trouble balancing.
The same was true for 16 per cent of participants with one lacunar infarction lesion and 30 per cent of men and women with more than two sites of microbleeding.
“One-leg standing time is a simple measure of postural instability and might be a consequence of the presence of brain abnormalities,” said Dr Tabara.
Earlier in the year researchers at the Medical Research Council found that standing on one leg may predict which 53-year-olds were at risk of early death.
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.
Women of the same age 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.
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