Can you stand on one leg for ten seconds? This simple balance test can serve as an indicator of the risk of death up to ten years for people over 50 and should be included in routine check-ups for the elderly.
The conclusion is from a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine this Tuesday (21) that included four Brazilian researchers and others from Finland, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The study analyzed 1,702 people between the ages of 51 and 75 between February 2009 and December 2020. They participated in a cohort study (Clinimex Exercise), created in 1994 to assess the link between different fitness measures with ill health and death.
The results show that the inability to stand on one leg for ten seconds, starting at age 50, is associated with a 3.8-fold higher absolute risk of death (17.5% in the group that did not complete the test and 4.6% in the group that did not complete the test). test). completed). When adjusted for all clinical variables, such as gender and body mass index, the risk is almost doubled (1.84).
“It is a much higher risk of being diagnosed with coronary heart disease, obesity, hypertension or dyslipidemia. Therefore, the priority is for the doctor to assess this ability as well. [de ficar em uma perna só]”, Says the lead author of the study, Dr Claudio Gil Soares de Araújo, director of research and education at Clinimex (Exercise Medicine Clinic).
Araújo says that according to his clinical experience, with more than 4,000 patients seen, the oldest person to complete the balance test was 91 years old. On the other hand, the youngest who failed to finish was 38 years old.
“Balance and other components of physical fitness, such as aerobic or non-aerobic, need training, especially when we start to lose weight, that is, in the sixth decade of life.”
The study is observational and, as such, cannot determine the cause-and-effect relationship. Another limitation is that information on factors that may affect balance, such as recent history of falls, levels of physical activity, diet, smoking, and drug use, has not been evaluated at work.
According to Araúj, one of the hypotheses that would explain the higher risk of mortality is that people with balance problems are more prone to falls. Fall fractures are responsible for about 70% of unfortunate deaths in people over the age of 75.
In Brazil, there are more than 600,000 femur fractures a year, 90% of which are the result of falls. The WHO (World Health Organization) established June 24, the following Friday, as World Fall Prevention Day.
According to orthopedist Jorge dos Santos Silva, president of the SBO (Sociedade Brasileira de Ortopedia), the Covid-19 pandemic in all its aspects has contributed to a greater weakening of the elderly, especially those over 80 years of age. “Weak seniors are more likely to fall and break.”
Geriatrician Maísa Kairalla, coordinator of the outpatient clinic for geriatrics and gerontology at Unifesp (Federal University of Sao Paulo), says clinics are full of weak older people and that a simpler tool, such as the balance test proposed in the study, can be great. values for health professionals.
“Especially in so many places where there is no time for a better assessment of muscle strength and balance. Or until it can be done by telemedicine. If a person is already bad on a simple test, you can conclude that he will not be able to do more complex tests and deserves urgent attention.” he says.
A study published in the BMJ has no data showing that improving balance will change the risk of falls or deaths. “But we can speculate that yes. Only reducing the risk of falling will already be a protective factor and can prolong survival,” says Claudio Araújo.
The aim of the research was to show that a simple and safe balance test can be a reliable indicator of the risk of death and as such deserves to be included in routine tests of the elderly.
Overall, 1 in 5 (20%) study participants failed the test. The inability to do so increases with age. The proportions of those who cannot stand on one leg for ten seconds are: almost 5% aged 51-55; 8% between 56-60 years; 18% between 61-65 years; and 37% between 66-70 years.
More than half (54%) of people between the ages of 71 and 75 did not complete the test. In other words, people in this age group were more than 11 times more likely to fail the test than those who were only 20 years younger.
During an average follow-up period of seven years, 123 (7%) people died: from cancer (32%); cardiovascular disease (30%); respiratory diseases (9%); and complications of Covid-19 (7%).
But no association has been established between these deaths and the results of the balance test.
In general, those who failed the test were in poorer health: most were obese and / or had heart disease, high blood pressure, and unhealthy blood fat profiles. Type 2 diabetes was three times more common in the group that did not pass the test: 38% versus 13%.
According to researchers, another limitation of the study is that all participants were white Brazilians, the findings may not be more widely applicable to other ethnic groups and nations.
Tip of the main author of the study: Seniors must be careful if they decide to do self-testing of balance. “Being close to a wall or a solid table that you can lean on if you lose your balance or have someone nearby.”