HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessA 10-sec test predicts survival in middle-aged and older people

A 10-sec test predicts survival in middle-aged and older people

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We don’t expect you to sit down for this bit of information.

If you’re in your forties and can’t stand on one leg for more than 10 seconds, it’s time to see a doctor.

It has been suggested that if you are unable to do so, you are roughly twice as likely to die within the next decade.

Researchers hope that the balancing test will become a standard part of adult health screenings.

Balance, unlike cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility, is rather well kept until the sixth decade of life, when it begins to decrease significantly.

However, balance testing isn’t usually included in middle-aged and older people’s health checks, probably because there is no standardized test and little strong data tying it to injuries or sickness other than falling, according to the researchers.

The researchers in Brazil sought to discover if a balance test could be used to predict a person’s chance of dying from any cause within the following decade, and if such a test should be included in routine health exams.

The individuals were drawn from the Clinimex Exercise project, which had begun in 1994 to investigate the associations between fitness levels and the probability of developing cardiovascular disease or dying from it.

More than 1,700 participants aged 51 to 75 (average age 61) at their initial check-up between February 2009 and December 2020 were included in the current study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Men made up around two-thirds (68%) of the participants.

Weight, skinfold thickness, and waist size measurements, as well as medical history, were obtained. Only individuals with a consistent gait were included.

As part of the check-up, the people were asked to stand on one leg without any help for 10 seconds.

They were instructed to position the front of their free foot on the rear of the opposing lower leg, with their arms by their sides and their gaze fixed straight ahead. It was possible to make up to three attempts on each foot.

Around one in every five people (348 people in all, or 20.5%) failed the exam, and this number climbed in lockstep with age, more than doubling every five years from 51 to 55.

Nearly 5% of those between the ages of 51 and 55 failed; 8% of those between the ages of 56 and 60 failed; 18% of those between the ages of 61 and 65 failed; and 37% of those between the ages of 66 and 70 failed.

More over half of individuals aged 71 to 75 were unable to complete the test, making them more than 11 times more likely to fail than those aged 20 years younger.

123 (or 7%) people died throughout the course of the seven-year monitoring period.

Cancer (32%) was the leading cause of mortality, followed by cardiovascular disease (30%), respiratory disease (9%), and COVID complications (7%).

There were no significant temporal trends in the fatalities, nor were there any variations in the causes of death between those who completed the exam and those who did not.

The proportion of deaths among individuals who failed the exam, on the other hand, was much higher: 17.5% versus 4.5%, a difference of just under 13%.

Those who failed had poorer health in general. Many were overweight and/or had heart disease, as well as high blood pressure and an excessive amount of fat in their blood.

This group had three times the rate of type two diabetes, with roughly 38% compared to 13% among individuals who passed the test.

After controlling for age, gender, and underlying illnesses, being unable to stand unsupported on one leg for 10 seconds was linked to an 84% increased chance of death from any cause within the next decade.

This is an observational study, and as such, it cannot establish cause, said study author Dr Claudio Gil Araujo of Clinimex Medicina do Exercicio in Brazil.

And because the participants were all white Brazilians, the findings may not be applicable to people of other races or countries.

In addition, data on potentially important factors such as recent falls, physical activity levels, nutrition, smoking, and the use of medicines that may impair balance were not available.

“The 10 second balance test provides rapid and objective feedback for the patient and health professionals regarding static balance,” Dr Araujo explained.

“The test adds useful information regarding mortality risk in middle-aged and older men and women.”

Image Credit: Getty

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