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Balance may indicate stroke, dementia risk in elderly

December 22, 2014
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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Researchers are examining the relationship between balance and the increased risk of small blood vessel damage (deep brain stroke) and reduced cognition, according to a study published in Stroke journal. Researchers from the Japan Shimanami Health Promoting Program conducted the study to determine postural instability and its relationship with the presence of asymptomatic cerebral small-vessel disease.

Study participants (841 women and 546 men with an average age of 67) were asked to stand on one leg with eyes open for 20 seconds. Researchers found that an inability to remain steady on one leg was associated with microbleeds and “silent strokes.”

Study results show that of the participants who had experienced deep brain stroke, 34.5 percent had more than two events and 16 percent had experienced one event. Imbalance was seen in 30 percent of participants who had experienced more than two microbleeds and 15.3 percent had trouble balancing after one microbleed event.

“Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline,” said Yahuharu Tabara, PhD, associate professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, and lead study author, in

Although the study did not assess participants’ fitness issues or history of falls, Tabara said that standing on one leg is an easy way to detect early risk signs for a stroke or cognitive impairment, and to determine whether further evaluation is needed.

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