- About two-thirds of the participants (68%) were men.
- Patients who failed the test were in poorer health. They were obese and/or had heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
“Balance declines rapidly after age 50, increasing the risk of falls and other health problems,” wrote an international group of researchers in a study published in the journal British Journal of Sports Medicine June 21st. As part of this work, the team wanted to know if a balance test could be a reliable indicator of a person’s risk of death from all causes within the next decade.
For their research, the scientists evaluated data from the “CLINIMEX” cohort. The latter affects 1,702 people aged 51 to 75 between February 2009 and December 2020. Weight and several measurements of skin fold thickness and waist circumference were recorded. The authors asked the subjects to stand on one leg without additional support for 10 seconds. To improve the “test standardization”adults were instructed to place the front foot on the back of the opposite lower leg while keeping their arms at their sides and looking straight ahead. A total of three attempts per foot were allowed.
84% increased risk of death if failed
About one in five volunteers, or 20.4%, failed the test. The failure rate increased with age. Accordingly, more than half of the 71 to 75 year olds could not complete the test. Simply put, patients in this age group were more than 11 times more likely to pass the test than those just 20 years younger.
According to the researchers, being unable to balance on one leg for 10 seconds was associated with an 84% increased risk of death from all causes over the next decade. During the 7-year follow-up, 123 people died: 32% from cancer, 30% from cardiovascular disease, 9% from respiratory disease and 7% from a complication related to Covid-19.
According to the team, this balance test deserves to be included in the examinations and health checks of older people. “It provides fast and objective feedback for patients and healthcare professionals on static balance and adds useful information on mortality risk in middle-aged and elderly men and women.” the authors said in a statement.