The authors of a recent study have developed a simple, low-cost test for brain health: balance on one leg for at least 20 seconds. The research finds that the study participants who couldn’t complete this task were more likely to have had silent strokes that damaged tiny blood vessels in the brain. This in turn affected balance as well as memory and thinking skills.
The study included nearly 1,400 individuals, both men and women, with an average age of 67. They were asked to stand on one leg, keep their eyes open, and maintain balance for at least 20 seconds. Each participant was also tested for brain health with the use of brain magnetic resonance imaging and a computer-based questionnaire.
More than 30 percent of the subjects who could not complete this task were found to have cerebral small vessel disease, minute hemorrhages, or both. Cerebral small vessel disease develops when the capillaries in the brain thicken and impede the smooth flow of blood. The capillaries may even bleed and cause hemorrhages in the brain that can lead to strokes.
Source: Tabara Y, Okada Y, Ohara M, et al. Association of Postural Instability With Asymptomatic Cerebrovascular Damage and Cognitive Decline: The Japan Shimanami Health Promoting Program Study. Stroke, 2015; 46: 16-22.