Stroke Risk Lower for Those With Better Balance


Those who have better balance appear to have a lower risk of having a stroke. A recent Japanese study found that people who could stand on one leg for 20 seconds or more were less at risk of the medical problem.

According to the report, published in the Stroke journal on December 18, those who struggle to balance on one leg may have already had tiny bleeds or small strokes. That means they are at a higher risk of having another one in the future, and it is likely to be more serious. Yahuharu Tabara, lead author on the study, said that this instability and issues with walking are signs that the brain is declining and could signal potential abnormalities within it.

Tabara, who is also a Center for Genomic Medicine associate profressor at Kyoto’s University Graduate School of Medicine, involved 1,400 people in the study. They were a mixture of men and woman, and the average age was 67 years. All they needed to do was stand on a leg for one minute and have MRI scans to look at the blood vessels in the brains. Disease within the small vessels could indicate microbleeds or “silent” strokes.

Those who were unable to stand on one left for just 20 seconds on more were found to have the disease in the vessels. It was determined that balance problems led to poorer memory skills and reduced thinking. Those with better balance were at a lower risk of developing a stroke at a later stage in life.

Small versions of this medical issue are linked to dementia and mental decline. They have previously been linked to falls and problems with balance. It makes sense that the poor balance could be a risk factor for a larger one.

North Shore-LIJ Health System vascular neurology chief Dr. Richard Libman has commended the study. He commented that it is a simple and inexpensive method to test the potential of small vessel disease within the brain. It can help determine if someone is at a higher risk of brain damage and other medical issues, without having to get expensive technology involved.

The study is not conclusive, but is an option available. According to results, 34.5 percent of those who have two lacunar infarction legions within the brain struggled with balancing. A further 16 percent struggled when they had just one legion. Microbleed lesions were also an issue, with 30 percent struggling to balance due to two or more and 15.3 percent struggling with just one.

Cerebral disease is more likely to affect older people. Those who also struggled to balance also struggled with cognitive tests. Tabara believes that people who show problems with balance should receive more attention for brain deterioration based on the results of the study.

There is little a person can do to prevent some of the onset of small vessel disease. It happens when the heart’s arteries become smaller and is part of the aging process. However, there are some medical conditions that make it worse, including diabetes and high blood pressure. Attempting to stand on one leg for at least 20 seconds may be a way to test for brain problems. The study shows that those with better balance have a lower risk of having a stroke.

By Alexandria Ingham


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