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One-legged Balance Test Offers Glimpse at Brain Health

The ability to balance on one leg for 20 seconds or longer is an important test for brain health, according to a new study. One’s inability to do the task is linked to an increased risk for small blood vessel damage in the brain and reduced cognitive, or decision-making, thinking and memory, function in otherwise healthy people with no apparent symptoms.

Japanese researchers studied 841 women and 546 men, average age of 67. Participants got two chances to stand on one leg, with eyes open, for as long as they could. The longest time recorded was 60 seconds. Study subjects also had brain MRIs to detect any cerebral small vessel disease.

The researchers found the inability to balance on one leg for longer than 20 seconds was associated with the presence of small symptom-less strokes, known as lacunar infarctions or microbleeds. Nearly 35 percent of those with more than two lacunar infarction lesions had difficulty balancing, as did 16 percent of those with one lacunar infarction lesion, Thirty percent of people studied with more than two microbleeds and 15.3 percent of those with one microbleed had trouble balancing.

Short one-legged standing times were also associated with lower cognitive scores.

“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, PhD, lead study author and associate professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan.

This study was published December 2014 in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.

Physical therapists are trained to administer balance tests and can help patients correct balance and postural deficits, which could reduce fall risk. For more information about what a physical therapist can do to help you achieve or maintain strength, mobility, balance, good posture and independence, 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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