Neurologists are the specialists trained to evaluate and treat patients suffering from cerebrovascular disease and stroke. Strokes are a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, but they are often difficult to predict without costly medical tests. However, a recent study published by the American Heart Association suggests that the ability to balance on one leg is a simple test that doctors can use to screen for functional impairments in the brain.
In a study conducted by a team of researchers from Kyoto University, a sample of nearly 1,400 men and women with an average age of 67 years were asked to balance on one leg for about 20 seconds. Of those who had trouble balancing for this length of time, more than 30 percent showed symptoms of small vessel disease or “microbleeds,” both of which are major risk factors for stroke. Shorter balance times were also associated with lower scores on memory and thinking tests. These findings suggest that the ability to balance on one leg may be an indicator of subclinical cognitive decline and, if correct, this simple assessment would contribute to improved preventive and neurorehabilitative care.
Dr. James C. Johnston directs Global NeuroCare (GlobalNeuroCare.org) in providing medical and rehabilitative services, and commented that "these type of clinical tests are particularly important in developing countries where neurologists are scarce and testing facilities limited."