A SIMPLE drawing test can predict the long-term risk of dying after a first stroke among older men, research has found.
Men whose test scores were in the bottom 30pc were around three times as likely to die after a stroke as those in the highest 30pc, the team at Uppsala University in Sweden showed.
They analysed data from the Uppsala Longitudinal Study of Adult Men, which has been looking at different risk factors for heart disease and stroke in 2,322 men since the age of 50.
They looked at just under 1,000 of these men who had not been diagnosed with stroke and whose intellectual capacity was assessed when they were between 65 and 75.
This was done using the trail making test (TMT) and the mini mental state exam (MMSE), which is widely used to test for dementia.
The TMT involves drawing lines with a pencil between numbers and/or letters in ascending order as quickly as possible, while the MMSE sets participants general cognitive tasks such as orientation, memory and numeracy.
During the 14-year monitoring period from 1991 to 2006, 155 men had a first major or minor stroke, known as a TIA (transient ischaemic attack).
Just over half of them (84) died within an average of two and a half years, with 22 dying within a month of the stroke.
After taking account of known risk factors such as older age, high blood pressure, education and social background, the study found that those who had performed badly in the TMT were more likely to have died.
However the findings, which are published in the online journal BMJ Open, showed no such association among those with poor MMSE scores.
The research team suggested this is because TMT is likely to pick up latent cognitive impairments caused by silent cerebrovascular disease that have not yet produced overt symptoms.
Stroke is the third largest cause of death in England, with more than 150,000 people suffering one every year, according to the NHS Choices website.
Those over 65 are most at risk but the danger can be reduced by having a healthy diet and taking regular exercise.