By Dr. Anthony Policastro

In the July 21 edition of the Star, Tony Windsor addressed a few medical issues. It makes sense to expand on his assessment.

One of the items discussed was the fact that a recent study looked at the increased risk of death in the next 10 years for individuals who could not stand on one foot for longer than 10 seconds.

The study in question looked at a total of 1,702 participants. That is not a very high number. All participants were between the age of 51 and 75. They started the evaluation in 2009 and concluded it in 2020. That is why their data talks about the risks over a 10 year period.

They standardized the test. The individual was asked to choose one leg. It did not matter which one they chose. They were then instructed to lift the other leg up and rest it on the calf of the chosen leg. They then looked straight ahead for 10 seconds. Once the test was done, they were followed for the ten year period.

The ability to stand on one leg decreases with age. In their study 95 percent of individuals between the ages of 51 and 55 had no problem doing so. For ages 56 to 60 the percent was 92 percent. For ages 61 to 65 the percent was 82 percent. 

After age 65, there were significantly more issues. For ages 66 to 70 only 63 percent of the individuals accomplished the task. For those between 71 and 75 only 46 percent of the individuals were able to do so. Thus half of the oldest five year age group could not complete the task.

They then compared the groups that could complete the task with those who could not. For the group that could not, significantly more of them were overweight. Significantly more of them were hypertensive. Significantly more of them had diabetes. Significantly more of them had evidence of coronary artery disease. 

One might say that the more risk factors you have the greater your chance of dying. That probably is not a great revelation. 

The result was that the mortality rate in those who passed the test was 4.6 percent. The mortality rate in those who failed the test was 17.5 percent. When they looked at the actual number of deaths, that came out to an 84 percent increased risk of dying in the next 10 years.

Since the older population was more likely to fail, this suggests that the older you are, the more likely you are to die. It also suggests that the poorer your health, the more likely you are to die.

What it means for the average person is that trying this particular test is relatively meaningless. What is more important is the remainder of your health. Even the authors of the article reached a single conclusion. 

It reads: “There is potential benefit to including the 10-second one leg standing as part of the routine physical examination in middle-aged and older adults.”

I figured Tony Windsor would appreciate my elaborating on his comments. At the very least he should find it reassuring.

COVID update- Nationally, the total number of new cases went from 910,000 last week to 828,000 this week. That is the fifth week in a row that they have been between 800,000 and 950,000.

In Sussex County, new cases went from 539 last week to 528 this week. That is essentially unchanged. 

Sussex County remains in the high risk zone. That is because we are still over 200 new cases per 100,000 people. We went from 257.02 per 100,000 last week to 221.58 per 100,000 this week.

That means that masks are suggested for indoor activities.We already know that indoor activities are worse when there are a lot of people and the length of time is extended.

I went to the DMV in Georgetown last week. I was given number 231 on my arrival. They were on 198. I spent almost an hour in a crowded waiting room where most people were unmasked. I wore my mask because I knew it was for their protection. Their masking would have been for my protection.

Predictably, 48 hours later I tested positive for COVID. My wife tested positive 48 hours after that. The moral of the story is that if you are going to be indoors with many people for an extended period, you should all be masked to protect each other.