Before you a read another word of this post, go stand on one leg for 20 seconds. Seriously, go try — we’ll be right here when you get back. Don’t mind any others watching; they’ll just think that you’re a badass yogi or something.
Were you able to keep your balance for a full 20 seconds? If not, you might want to see a doctor because it could mean you’re at risk for a stroke. Allow us to explain…
A 2014 study of 1,387 middle-age to elderly adults showed a correlation between the inability to balance on one leg and something called asymptomatic cerebral small-vessel disease (cSVD), a condition where capillaries in the brain thicken or bleed, causing a lack of bloodflow and possibly a stroke.
Adjusting for other factors, the study found that 30 percent of the adults who could not stand on one leg for longer than 20 seconds had evidence of cSVD, something largely correlated with eventual onset of strokes.
Even if you don’t have cSVD, the inability to complete the balance test also suggests other serious health issues, since balancing requires simultaneous use of both healthy, well-functioning brain hemispheres. So if you’re unable to, it might be because of another impairment that’s worth looking into, especially if you or your family have a history of dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular illnesses, hypertension or diabetes.
But don’t freak out. Although you should be able to balance on one leg for 20 seconds without much fuss, it could just be that you’re drunk (day drinking again, are we?), have vertigo (like Liza Minelli’s character in Arrested Development), or have supremely shitty balance, most of which can be solved by sobering up; visiting an ear, nose, and throat doctor; or going to a yoga class.
Try all three! Alcohol is best in moderation, your otolaryngologist misses you (she told us so), and yoga is good for you — it calms you down, helps maintain lifelong balance, and ensures more awe and respect should you decide to balance on one leg in public for about 20 seconds or longer.