All the subtle signs you’re at risk of an early death, according to science
From a weak handshake to struggling to climb stairs, experts have discovered dozens of subtle signs of ill health over the past few decades.
But now they’ve discovered another one.
Research suggests that if you can’t balance on one leg for 10 seconds, it’s a warning sign that you’re at risk of being sent to an early grave.
Brazilian experts, who followed 2,000 people aged 50 to 75, found that volunteers who failed to complete the flamingo test were 84 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who passed the test easily.
Here, MailOnline reveals some of the other subtle signs that you are at risk for an early death.
Balancing on one leg
Those who wobble when trying to stand on one leg are at risk, according to the latest study.
Researchers in Brazil found that those who couldn’t complete the “Flamingo” exercise were almost twice as likely to die early as those who could.
More than 1,700 participants, ages 50 to 75, underwent various fitness tests, including standing on one leg for 10 seconds without any support.
This involved placing the front of one foot on the back of the other lower leg, keeping the arms at the sides and looking straight ahead.
Over the course of the study — conducted by researchers at the Exercise Medicine Clinic CLINIMEX in Rio de Janeiro — in which each participant was followed for an average of seven years, 123 people died.
The results, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicineshow that those who were unable to stand on one leg for 10 seconds without support were 84 percent more likely to die from any cause.
It by no means means that balance problems are the actual cause of death.
But lead researcher Dr Claudio Gil Araujo said good balance is necessary for everyday life and a loss of balance is “bad for health.”
According to the team, the test therefore provides “rapid and objective feedback to the patient and healthcare professionals regarding static balance.” They said it “adds useful information about mortality risk in middle-aged and older men and women.”
In addition to not being able to balance on one leg, older people who walk slowly are much more at risk of being sent to an early grave.
Researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research measured the walking speed of 3,200 over-65s, who were then followed for an average of five years.
The speed of each participant was measured at three different points during the study period. This was done by asking them to walk through a twenty-foot corridor.
The results showed that the slowest male walkers ran 90 m/min (one mile every 18 minutes), while the fastest walked faster than 110 m/minute (one mile every 15 minutes).
Meanwhile, the slowest female walkers covered 81 m/minute (one mile every 20 minutes), while the fastest women did at least 90 m/minute.
More than 200 deaths were recorded, according to results published in the British medical journal in 2009.
Analysis found that at the end of the study, the slowest third of walkers were 44 percent more likely to die than the fastest group.
Researchers said fast walkers may be fitter and benefit from better cardiovascular health.
Sitting and standing
HOW DO YOU STAY HEALTHY THROUGH EXERCISE?
Adults are encouraged to do some form of physical activity every day. Exercising just once or twice a week can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke.
Over 18s should aim for:
- At least two days a week, do strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). This includes carrying heavy shopping bags, doing yoga, Pilates, and lifting weights.
- Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Moderate activity includes brisk walking, cycling, dancing, and doubles tennis. Vigorous activity includes running, swimming, and fast cycling or on hills.
- Spread the exercise evenly over four to five days a week or every day
- Reduce the time spent sitting or lying down and interrupt long periods of inactivity with any activity
Adults can also reach the weekly activity goal with:
- Several short sessions of very vigorous intensity activity. This includes lifting heavy weights, circuit training and sprinting hills.
- A mix of moderate, vigorous and very vigorous intensity activity
The simple exercise of sitting down and standing up again without holding anything could also suggest how long you have left to live.
People who struggle to get down and back up without supporting themselves are five times more likely to die young, researchers have found.
A team of scientists at Gama Filho University in Brazil recruited 2,002 people, ages 51 to 80, who were asked to perform the sit-stand test.
Participants, who were barefoot and wearing loose clothing, were told to lower themselves to the floor and cross their legs without using their hands, knees, elbows or sides of their legs for support.
They were then asked to get up again, also without assistance.
Volunteers were given a score out of 10 for how well they did. Points were deducted for each support used or if volunteers lost their balance a bit.
The findings, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2021, show that 159 deaths were recorded over the six-year period of the study.
The results showed that those who had the most difficulty completing the test — meaning they scored zero to three — were 5.4 times more likely to die, compared to those who achieved the feat with ease.
The researchers said their findings identify those who lose mobility, flexibility and muscle with age, signaling poor health.
Being able to walk up four flights of stairs seamlessly may also indicate you’re avoiding an early grave.
Researchers in Spain got more than 12,000 people running on treadmills, gradually increasing the pace until they were exhausted. Their hearts were checked simultaneously.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal in 2018, tracked the health of the volunteers for five years.
Death rates from all causes, as well as heart disease, were nearly three times higher in participants who were considered to be in poor health, compared to their fitter peers.
Only 1.2 percent of those who performed well in the tests died, compared with 3.2 percent of those who struggled with the training.
While the participants underwent treadmill tests, the scientists behind the study said people could discover whether they have good heart health if they can quickly climb three floors of stairs without stopping, or four flights of stairs at a normal pace without a break.
Lead researcher Dr. Jesús Peteiro, a cardiologist at University Hospital in A Coruña, and colleagues, advised those who struggled with stairs to move more to keep their weight, blood pressure and inflammation low.
Not being able to give a firm handshake can also be a sign of impending death, if research is to be believed.
One study found that people with poor grip are up to 20 percent more likely to die prematurely.
Experts in Scotland examined the grip strength of 500,000 volunteers aged 40 to 69, using data from the UK Biobank, a huge database of Britons’ health records.
Their grip strength was collected using a tool called a hand dynamometer. The participants sat upright with their elbows at their sides and bent at a 90-degree angle so that their forearms were facing forward and resting on an armrest.
They squeezed the tool with their right hand and then their left hand. The scientists recorded the average maximum weight they could grasp.
About 13,322 participants died over the next seven years, the University of Glasgow team found.
The findings, published in the British medical journal in 2018 showed that for every 5 kg decrease in participants’ grip strength, their risk of death from any cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer increased by a fifth.
The researchers said grip strength acts as a marker of skeletal muscle health — which plays a “critical” role in the fight against cancer and diabetes.
Grip strength can identify people with muscle weakness who are at high risk for a wide variety of diseases and may benefit from more health testing, they said.
People who struggle to complete 10 pushups are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who can handle 40.
An international team of researchers set out to investigate whether there is a link between physical fitness and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
They recruited 1,100 firefighters, who were regularly asked to do as many push-ups as they could at a local medical clinic between 2000 and 2010.
During assessments, doctors set a metronome at 80 beats per minute and counted the number of pushups the firefighters completed in time until they reached 80, missed three or more beats, or stopped.
During the 10 years they were monitored, 37 were diagnosed with heart disease, according to the findings published in the journal JAMA network opened†
But those who could do more than 40 pushups were 96 percent less likely to get one, compared to those who did fewer than 10.
They said push-ups were a sign of muscle strength, which protects against all-cause deaths and high blood pressure.