Balance Can be an Indicator of Risk for Stroke and Cognitive Decline

Researchers in Japan recently found a correlation between the ability to balance on one leg and the risk for stroke and cognitive decline in a study of over a thousand healthy adults. To assess the risks, the researchers looked for the presence of “microbleeds”, which are tiny lesions in the brain that can lead to stroke and cognitive decline over time.

BalancingThe study, published in the American Heart Association’s Journal Stroke, was conducted at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine. Researchers assessed the balance of 1,387 adults with an average age of 67 by recording their one-leg standing time. The participants were asked to stand up and raise one leg in front of them, bent at the knee, for as long as they could. They repeated this on both legs twice, totaling two attempts per leg. All attempts were timed but only the best time for each leg was recorded. Participants were then given an MRI brain scan to identify any microbleeds or other abnormalities in the brain.

Results showed a correlation between the length of time an individual could balance and the incidence of microbleeds and other brain tissue abnormalities. Among those that maintained their balance for less than 20 seconds, only 10% were free of microbleeds while 24% had two or more. This indicates that lack of balance is strongly correlated with the presence of microbleeds, which are in turn risk indicators for stroke and cognitive decline. Researchers also looked for “lacunar infarction lesions”, which are lesions associated with a type of stroke that is caused when an artery providing blood to the brain’s deepest regions is blocked. Less than 10% of people with poor balance were completely free of lacunar lesions, while 35% of those with poor balance had two or more. These results remained consistent even after researchers controlled for factors such as age, arterial health and blood pressure.

The research team concluded that poor balance on one leg could indicate future problems with brain health and risk for stroke, though further research is needed. To learn more about stroke and post-stroke care needs, read Chapter 15 of From Hospital to Home Care, one of eight informative books in the Home Care Assistance Healthy Longevity Book Series.


“Association of Postural Instability with Asymptomatic Cerebrovascular Damage and Cognitive Decline.” Http:// American Heart Association, n.d. Web.

Di Salvo, David. “Try This Simple Test Of Brain Health — You Can Do It Standing On One Leg.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web.