New Method to Predict Stroke Risk

Balance_with_one_leg.1-291x300.jpgFor some aging parents, balancing on one leg for 20 seconds is a breeze; for others, it’s a challenge. Now a new study from the American Heart Association (AHA)  suggests that this simple test may allow medical professionals to predict the risk of stroke or cognitive issues among elderly patients.

About the study

AHA published the new study online in its journal, Stroke, in December. Entitled “Association of Postural Instability With Asymptomatic Cerebrovascular Damage and Cognitive Decline​,” the cross-sectional study looked at 841 women and 546 men who had an average age of 67.  The researchers studied the participants’ ability to balance on one leg with their eyes open. The time that the participants could hold this pose was measured, with a maximum standing time of 60 seconds. Each participant stood on one leg in two separate attempts; the better of the two attempts was the one that was included in the study results.


Among the study’s significant findings were:

- Struggling to stand on one leg for less than 20 seconds was linked to an increased risk for stroke, small blood vessel damage in the brain, and reduced cognitive function in otherwise healthy people.
- One-legged standing time may be a simple test used to measure early signs of brain abnormalities associated with cognitive decline, cerebral small vessel disease, and stroke.
- Utilizing cerebral measuring techniques, the researchers could determine the presence of cerebral small vessel disease, especially small infarctions that do not have symptoms (such as those called lunar infarction or microbleeding). With this information, the scientists also determined that

- 34.5 percent of study participants with more than two lacunar infarction lesions had trouble balancing.
- 16 percent of study participants with one lacunar infarction lesion had trouble balancing.
- 30 percent of those with more than two microbleed lesions had trouble balancing.
- 15.3 percent of the participants who had one microbleed lesion had trouble balancing.


Assessing lacunar infarctions is important because people with such infarctions are between 4 and 12 times more likely to develop dementia than are those without such infarctions.

Doctors may want to consider a one leg balance test as a way of assessing the likelihood of undetected strokes or as a means of initiating stroke prevention strategies in aging parents.

Because falls can be an issue for many aging parents, balancing tests should be initiated by a physician.​​


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