Balance linked to stroke and dementia risk

21 December 2014

A balance test could help determine your stroke or dementia risk, experts say.

People who struggle to balance on one leg for more than 20 seconds are more likely to have suffered "silent" strokes or microbleeds than others.

Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan say these injuries do not cause any immediate symptoms but raise the risk of suffering a full stroke or developing dementia later in life.

Their study involved 546 men and 841 women who were asked to stand on one leg, with open eyes, for up to one minute.

The participants, who had an average age of 67, carried out the balancing exercise twice, and the better of the two times was recorded for research purposes.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were also taken to check whether participants had cerebral small vessel disease, which can affect the blood flow in the brain.

It was found that more than a third (34%) of those who had suffered at least two "silent strokes", and three in 10 (30%) of those who had experienced more than two microbleeds, had difficulty balancing on one leg.

Among those who had suffered one "silent" stroke, only around one in six (16%) struggled to stand on one leg.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal Stroke.