Stroke affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the No. 4 cause of death in the United States.
But a new study may have revealed a simple test that can show you are at risk for stroke well-before you show any symptoms.
A Japanese study measured the ability of 841 women and 546 men to stand on one leg for up to 60 seconds. Researchers found that the ability to balance on one leg for less than 20 seconds was associated with cerebral small vessel disease, an indicator that small bleeds and “silent strokes” have taken place in the brain already.
These “micro-bleeds” can lead to a full stroke in time, and a “silent stroke,” even though it has no symptoms, still damages the brain and puts the patient at risk of major strokes in the future.
According to an article for the American Heart Association, participants in the study stood with their eyes open and raised one leg. The maximum time for keeping the leg raised was 60 seconds, and participants did the test twice. The participant’s best times were compared to MRIs of their brains for the evidence of silent strokes or micro-bleeds.
Researchers found a statistically significant correlation:
- 34.5 percent of those with more than two lacunar infarction (silent stroke) 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.
Overall, those participants who were found to have cerebral diseases had some other things in common, too. They were older, had high blood pressure, and had thicker carotid arteries (those large arteries in the neck that supply the head and neck with oxygenated blood).
However, participants with more microbleeds and lacunar infarctions in the brain also had shorter one-legged standing times.
Dr. Richard Libman, chief of vascular neurology at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y., credits the authors with devising a simple test of balance that seems to correlate with early indicators of stroke risk.
“This test may be an inexpensive, low-tech method to screen people for small vessel disease who are most likely at risk for further strokes and brain damage.”
According to the American Stroke Association, damage from stroke can often be prevented with quick treatment. Seek medical attention immediately if you see these warning signs:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, lack of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause