A new study by Japanese researchers has found that inability to balance on one leg for longer than 20 seconds was linked with having had minor small vessel damage or infarction in the brain, such as microbleeds and lacunar infarction, otherwise known as “silent strokes.”
Minor small vessel damage indicates that the person is at higher risk of major small vessel damage known as stroke, and dementia.
Thus, according to the researchers, the ability to stand on one leg could be a simple but effective test for the early signs of brain abnormalities caused by minor small vessel infarction that could lead to stroke and dementia.
Strokes are small blood vessel damage that interrupt blood flow to a part of the brain, while dementia, often related with small blood vessel damage, involves cognitive function decline in otherwise healthy adults.
The researchers warned that although microbleeds and “silent strokes” are small cerebrovascular events that may cause no major symptoms, they could serve warning of future serious health problems, such as a fatal stroke and dementia.
According to lead researcher Yasuharu Tabara, associate professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University in Japan, “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 study involved 841 and 546 women and men, respectively, with an average age of 67. They were asked to try to balance or stand on one leg with their eyes open, and allowed up to 60 seconds to keep the leg raised. Each participant performed the exercise twice, and the better of the two attempts was included in the analysis.