A simple balance test can predict the risk of death in the next 10 years

Равновесие

The ability to balance the body deteriorates with age. A new study has tested whether the ability to balance can tell about impending health problems. Indeed, among the subjects who could not stand for 10 seconds on one leg, there was a disproportionately high mortality rate.

Difficulties with balance in old age are due to the deterioration of bone quality, loss of muscle mass and impaired processing by the senses of data on the position of the body in space. Along with cognitive regression, worn joints and shrunken eyesight, this increases the chance of falling in old age. Poor balance can also indicate health problems like ear infections, stroke, and multiple sclerosis.

The authors tested 1702 people with a stable gait from 51 to 75 years old. Weight, body relief, waist circumference and anamnesis were analyzed. As a test, subjects were asked to stand on one leg for 10 seconds. The second leg was supposed to rest on the shin, and the arms dangled at the sides. Everyone was given 3 attempts. 348 or 1/5 of the participants failed the test, and the older the subjects were, the more likely they were to fall. Among persons 51-55 years old, they were 5%, 56-60 years old – 8%, 61-65 years old – 18%, and 66-70 years old – 37%. More than half of the participants aged 71 to 75 failed to complete the task, meaning they were 11 times more likely to fall than people 20 years younger.

Further 7-year follow-up of the fate of patients revealed patterns between test success and mortality. 123 people or 7% died from diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and coronavirus. The mortality rate for those who failed was 17.5% versus 4.5% for those who did. Those who failed the test often had more health problems and overweight, chronic heart disease and high blood pressure. Type 2 diabetes was also three times more common in this group.

By taking into account conditions, age, and gender, scientists have determined that a failed balance test is associated with an 84% increase in the chance of dying in the next 10 years. However, it was not taken into account that the participants were exclusively white Brazilians and that about 2/3 of the subjects were men. There were no data on injuries, sports, nutrition and bad habits. So it is too early to make loud statements about the connection between the ability to keep balance and the proximity of death. Especially when you consider that balance can be trained, even thanks to ordinary yoga. Although, for understanding general health, the balance test can become a cheap non-invasive tool for full-time clinical practice.

Source — University of Bristol

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