Your ability to
balance on one leg may serve as an indicator to your brain health. A new study
claims that the inability to balance on one leg for more than 20 seconds means
that the person is more prone or likely to have damaged blood vessels in their
brain and hence faces early cognitive decline.
Your brain is a
complicated organ, which is the command and control center of your body. When
you think of a fit body, you rarely associate your brain with it. But the truth
is that if you want a healthy body, the first place to always start is by
having a healthy brain. Health of your brain plays a critical role in almost
everything you do like thinking, feeling, remembering, working, playing and
So if being healthy
is a way of life and the root of all health is in your brain, it is important
to understand that it is not just about what you feed your body, it's also what
you feed your mind. After all, the flower of your health blooms when all parts
of your body including your brain work together.
Studies have shown
that the brain shrinks with increasing age and incidence of stroke
, dementia, memory impairment all increase.
decline isn't inevitable; it is up to you to keep mentally fit, as you get
Why Balance is Important?
conducted a study in 841 men and 546 women, with an average age of 67 years. The
results of the study were published in the journal Stroke
. The participants were asked to mount or balance on one leg
for up to 60 seconds if possible. They were allowed to keep their eyes open
during this assignment. Factors such as heart disease and high blood pressure
have an impact on the results of the study were also taken into account. The
researchers considered the amount of time the participants could balance on one
leg with their eyes open or the ability to stand in an erect position as a
measure of postural stability. The scientists recorded the times for two
different attempts and then took their average. They also simultaneously
evaluated the cerebral small vessel disease using brain MRI scan. The
researchers also measured cognitive impairment using computer-based questionnaires.
compared the time that the participants were able to balance on one leg with
the MRI scan results. They found an amazing co-relation between the balance
time and brain health, particularly the health of the small blood vessels that
feed the brain. The results showed that participants who could not balance on
one leg for more than 20 seconds were more prone or likely to have damaged
blood vessels in their brain. This included areas where micro-bleeds or
"mini-strokes" had previously occurred.
They explained that changes in postural
stability and difficulty balancing on one leg could be a warning sign of brain
vessel abnormalities and an early indicator of brain health decline and could
also be a sign of brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease
decline due to damage caused to small blood vessels in the brain could be a
risk factor for stroke.
Lead author Yasuharu Tabara, from a Kyoto
University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan commented "Our study
found that the ability to balance on one leg is an important test for brain
The participants who had trouble balancing
on one leg were as follows:
- More than two lacunar infarction lesions - 34.5%
- One lacunar infarction lesion - 16%
- More than two micro-bleed lesions - 30%
- One micro-bleed lesion - 15.3%
were unable to balance on one leg were also independently associated with lower
cognitive functioning scores. The study revealed that participants who were
found to have cerebral small vessel disease were in general found to be older
who suffered with high blood pressure and thicker carotid arteries as
compared to participants who did not have any damage to their brains.
Participants with more subclinical infarctions were found to have reduced times
for standing on one leg.
The researchers felt that the only drawback of the
study was that they failed to assess the participants' previous history of
falling or physical fitness issues such as abnormalities in their gaits, which
could potentially have impacted the results of their study. They agreed that additional
long-term studies would be needed in future in order to fully assess the
significance of postural instability.
added, "One-leg standing time is a simple measure of postural instability
and might be a consequence of the presence of brain
showing poor balance on one leg should receive increased attention, as this may
indicate an increased risk for brain disease and cognitive decline."
Previous studies have also shown the ability
to mount on one leg as a predictor of brain health. A study that was
published in the British medical Journal in 2014 showed a link between the
balancing time on one leg and all-cause mortality. The participants were asked
to do this task with their eyes closed, as the researchers believed that
balancing on one leg with eyes closed would be more challenging due to lack of
any visual input. The study participants who could not balance on one leg
without opening their eyes for 2 seconds or more had nearly 3 times higher risk
for death compared to those who could balance on a leg for 10 seconds or
Your mind is like a parachute - it works only
when it is open. Thus a healthy life both physically and mentally could be your
best defense against the changes of an ageing brain. In simple words, protect
your brain health to keep the cognitive decline at bay!