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One-legged Balance Test Helps Predict Hip Fracture and Death among Postmenopausal Women

New research suggests there are important clues that help to predict hip fracture and death among postmenopausal women. One is the inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds. The other: to squat down and reach the floor.

Both functions are necessary for independence and quality of life. A woman’s inability to do either the balance or squat put her at higher risk for hip fracture and death than women who can perform either function, researchers reported September 13, 2014 at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2014 Annual Meeting, Houston, Texas.

The 15-year study looked at information about nearly 2,800 women, whose average age was 59.1 at the study’s start. An average 13.1 years after the study started, 578 fractures occurred, including 35 hip fractures. More than nine percent of the women had died.

At the start of the study, participants performed three physical tests, which indicated their physical capacity. More than half of the women (1,587 total) passed the three tests with flying colors, showing no functional decline. The researchers used those women as a reference group, comparing them to women who showed declines in any of the three tests. They found women who had trouble with one or more physical tests had a notably higher risk for hip fracture. Risk of death was elevated, as was the risk for any fracture, among women who were unable to complete any of the three tests.

The most concerning group was made up of women who were unable to complete the leg-stand test. They had the highest hip fracture risk compared to women who could complete the test. The second strongest predictor of hip fracture was failure in squatting and touching the floor. Weak grip strength came in third among the test as a predictor of hip fracture and death.

The study highlights the importance of maintaining balance into older age. Physical therapists are expert at helping patients not only maintain balance, but also strength and flexibility needed for squatting and bending. Standing on one leg requires balance, as well as coordination and strong hip and core muscles.

Knowing how important it is to maintain these functions in life is an opportunity for improvement. Women who cannot do these functions now can improve with safe fitness programs administered by a physical therapist.

For more about what physical therapists can do to prevent falls, improve coordination, balance, strength, flexibility and posture, contact A Physical Therapist, Inc.

A Physical Therapist, Inc., is a one-on-one physical therapy clinic in Delray Beach, Fla., and Harrisburg, Penn. For patients in Palm Beach County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Boca Raton or Boynton Beach. For patients in Dauphin County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Hershey and Marysville.

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