Try This Simple DIY Test to Find Out How Well Your Brain Is Working

A man and woman doing a leg stretch
BraunS/Getty Images

Here's a quick do-it-yourself test for brain health: See how long you can stay balanced on one leg. If you can't hold that flamingo position for at least 20 seconds, it could indicate damage to small blood vessels in your brain even if you have no other symptoms.

That damage could put you at high risk for brain disease, including stroke and cognitive decline.

Microbleeds or blockages of tiny blood vessels in the brain can cause damage that affects a person's walking and balance.

Japanese researchers wanted to devise a simple, low-cost test that could indicate whether these microbleeds had already occurred in people who otherwise seemed healthy. The result was a one-leg balance test.

The researchers had about 1,400 men and women, average age 67, stand with one leg raised and their eyes open for a maximum of 60 seconds. Each person in the test did this twice. Afterward, each subject underwent an MRI brain scan to detect any blood vessel damage.

Those who struggled to stay balanced for 20 seconds were more likely to have brain lesions from a ministroke or from a microbleed. About 35 percent of those who had had more than two of these ministrokes had trouble balancing. Plus, short balance times were linked with lower scores on memory and thinking tests.

Those who can't stay balanced for very long should talk to their doctor about further evaluation.

Take a brain health assessment, play games, discover new recipes and more with AARP’s Staying Sharp.

This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.

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