Balance has often been studied in connection to various health concerns such as ear infection, low blood pressure, and head injuries. However, research suggests that balance may also have something to do with circulation and stroke risk as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the United States and is the fourth leading cause of death. Read on to find out what balancing on one leg might really mean about stroke and how to prevent this medical emergency.
Try standing on one leg for 20 seconds. Can you do it? If not, research published in the American Heart Association’s Journal Stroke suggests that you may have an increased risk for small blood vessel damage in the brain and impaired cognitive function. This test may be an early indicator of stroke risk in healthy individuals with no outstanding symptoms.
The 2014 study reviewed the balance of a group of almost 1,400 individuals with an average age of 67. The test subjects were asked to balance on one leg for at least one minute, and their results were compared against MRI scans that assessed the small blood vessels in the brain.
Researchers found that those who could not balance on one leg for more than 20 seconds had more incidents of cerebral small vessel disease than those who could balance for longer. These were usually small infarctions such as lacunar infarction and microbleeds that were present without symptoms. The study concluded:
- 34.5 percent of those with more than two lacunar infarction lesions had trouble balancing.
- 16 percent of those with one lacunar infarction lesion had trouble balancing.
- 30 percent of those with more than two microbleed lesions had trouble balancing.
- 15.3 percent one microbleed lesion had trouble balancing.
The test subjects with cerebral diseases were generally older, had thicker carotid arteries and higher blood pressure than those who showed no evidence of cerebral small vessel disease. After these factors were taken into consideration, those people who had shorter one-legged standing times were also those with more microbleeds in the brain.
“Our study found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain health,” said Yasuharu Tabara, Ph.D., lead study author and associate professor at the Center for Genomic Medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan. “Individuals showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline.”
Of course, many people simply have poor balance, so the test is far from definitive. However, according to Tabara, “One-leg standing time is a simple measure of postural instability and might be a consequence of the presence of brain abnormalities”.
Signs and symptoms of a stroke
If you are over 55 or present any of the risk factors for a stroke such as a genetic history, it is essential that you understand the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Quick thinking and immediate action could mean the difference between life and permanent disability or death.
According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, these are key symptoms to keep an eye out for. Call 911 immediately if you experience or see any of these symptoms.
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg—especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden problems seeing in one eye or both eyes
- Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble walking
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- Other danger signs that may occur include double vision, drowsiness, and nausea or vomiting.
Never waste time when dealing with stroke symptoms. Time is everything, and it is essential to receive immediate medical attention even if the symptoms don’t last long.
How to reduce your risk of stroke
Though these are simple health ABC’s that everyone should know, they can make a huge difference in your risk of a stroke.
- Eat healthy, whole foods
- Exercise regularly
- If you smoke, quit
- Keep blood pressure and blood sugar in the normal range
- Treat heart disease, if present
-The Alternative Daily