Association of Postural Instability With Asymptomatic Cerebrovascular Damage and Cognitive Decline: The Japan Shimanami Health Promoting Program Study

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Background and Purpose—

Asymptomatic cerebral small-vessel disease (cSVD) in elderly individuals are potent risk factors for stroke. In addition to common clinical risk factors, postural instability has been postulated to be associated with cSVD in older frail patients. Here, we conducted a cross-sectional study to understand the possible link between postural instability and asymptomatic cSVD further, namely periventricular hyperintensity, lacunar infarction, and microbleeds, as well as cognitive function, in a middle-aged to elderly general population (n=1387).


Postural instability was assessed based on one-leg standing time (OLST) and posturography findings. cSVD was evaluated by brain magnetic resonance imaging. Mild cognitive impairment was assessed using a computer-based questionnaire, and carotid intima-media thickness as an index of atherosclerosis was measured via ultrasonography.


Frequency of short OLST, in particular <20 s, increased linearly with severity of cSVD (lacunar infarction lesion: none, 9.7%; 1, 16.0%; >2, 34.5%; microbleeds lesion: none, 10.1%; 1, 15.3%; >2, 30.0%; periventricular hyperintensity grade: 0, 5.7%; 1, 11.5%; >2, 23.7%). The association of short OLST with lacunar infarction and microbleeds but not periventricular hyperintensity remained significant even after adjustment for possible covariates (lacunar infarction, P=0.009; microbleeds, P=0.003; periventricular hyperintensity, P=0.601). In contrast, no significant association was found between posturographic parameters and cSVD, whereas these parameters were linearly associated with OLST. Short OLST was also significantly associated with reduced cognitive function independent of covariates, including cSVD (P=0.002).


Postural instability was found to be associated with early pathological changes in the brain and functional decline, even in apparently healthy subjects.

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