Balance on one leg may be a useful health test later in life, research finds | Health

If you’re having trouble standing on one leg, it could be a sign of something more serious than overdoing it during a summer cocktail hour at the office. Middle-aged and older people who can’t balance on one leg for 10 seconds are nearly twice as likely to die within 10 years as those who can, research shows.

A person’s ability to balance can provide insight into their health. Previous research, for example, indicates that an inability to balance on one leg is linked to an increased risk of stroke. People with poor balance have also been found to perform worse on tests of mental decline, suggesting a link to dementia.

Today, an international group of experts from the UK, USA, Australia, Finland and Brazil have just completed a 12-year study, the first of its kind, examining the relationship between balance and mortality. Although the research was observational and could not establish a cause, its results were striking.

An inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid to late life is linked to a nearly doubling of the risk of death from any cause over the next 10 years. The results were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The results are so striking that the researchers, led by Dr. Claudio Gil Araujo of the Clinimex exercise medicine clinic in Rio de Janeiro, suggest that a balance test should be included in routine health checkups for women. the elderly.

Unlike aerobic fitness, muscle strength and flexibility, balance tends to be well preserved until the sixth decade of life, when it begins to decline quite rapidly. However, balance assessment is not usually included in health checkups for middle-aged and elderly people, possibly because there is no standardized test for it. Until now, there has been little hard data linking balance to clinical outcomes other than falls.

A total of 1,702 people aged 51 to 75 with stable gait were followed between 2008 and 2020 for the study. At first, participants had to stand on one leg for 10 seconds without any additional support. To standardize the test, participants were asked to place the front of their free foot on the back of the opposite lower leg while keeping their arms at their sides and their gaze fixed straight ahead. Up to three attempts on each foot were allowed.

One in five (21%) failed the test. Over the next decade, 123 people died of various causes. After controlling for age, gender and underlying conditions, an inability to stand unsupported on one leg for 10 seconds was associated with an 84% increased risk of death from any cause .

The researchers said the study had limitations, including that the participants were all white Brazilians, which means the results may not be more broadly applicable to other ethnicities and nations.

Nevertheless, the researchers concluded that the 10-second balance test “provides rapid and objective feedback to the patient and healthcare professionals regarding static balance” and “adds useful information regarding mortality risk in men.” and middle-aged and older women.

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