Strokes: Drawing test 'may predict risks in older men'

Trail Making Test Drawing lines between ascending numbers- the test needs to be done as fast as possible

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A simple drawing test may help predict the risk of older men dying after a first stroke, a study in the journal BMJ Open suggests.

Taken while healthy, the test involves drawing lines between numbers in ascending order as fast as possible.

Men who scored in the bottom third were about three times as likely to die after a stroke compared with those who were in the highest third.

The study looked at 1,000 men between the ages of 67 and 75 over 14 years.

Of the 155 men who had a stroke, 22 died within a month and more than half within an average of two- and-a-half years.

The researchers think that tests are able to pick up hidden damage to brain blood vessels when there are no other obvious signs or symptoms.

Silent injury

Dr Clare Walton, from the Stroke Association, said: "This is an interesting study because it suggests there may be early changes in the brain that puts someone at a greater risk of having a fatal stroke.

"This is a small study and the causes of poor ability on the drawing task is not known. Although much more research is needed, this task has the potential to screen for those most at risk of a severe or fatal stroke before it occurs so that they can benefit from preventative treatments."

Dr Bernice Wiberg, lead author from Uppsala University in Sweden, said: "As the tests are very simple, cheap and easily accessible for clinical use, they could be a valuable tool - alongside traditional methods like measuring blood pressure (and) asking about smoking - for identifying risk of stroke, but also as a possible important predictor of post-stroke mortality."

She also suggested it could help improve information given to patients and their family.

More than 150,000 people suffer a stroke every year.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Is that a buttock on the right hand side of the picture?

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Older women have higher risk of stroke than men. 5 years or older, may have to be treated with a more effective stroke prevention therapy than warfarin, the current commonly-used blood thinner. The study compared the incidence of stroke and warfarin use among 39,398 men and 44,115 women with atrial fibrillation in Quebec between 1998 and 2007.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    1.Surely a sample size of barely 50 (155 divided into thirds) is too small to produce a statistically meaningful result. 2. We are told the risk of one group was 3 times that of another - not very interesting if the risk of the least risky was already very low as thrice next to nothing is still negligible. 3. No indication that they can do anything with the findings - thus a bit academic. Sorry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    I love science. All the weird and wonderful things they come up with.

    It would be nice to know how much they spent on a project like this...just for information.

    It is good that they look at doing random tests like this because randomness can often lead onto something wonderful...cure for cancer next...and AIDS would be good...eternal life?? Would you want to live forever? Let's not go there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Knowing who is more likely to die after stroke is on its own only of use to those who ration treatment. Intervening in this group to improve outcomes should be the real goal that this work is aiming for. Will it ever happen? Who knows. Call me cynical....

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    crivvens my last test took a week.........

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    I would like to think that the studies used & reported by the media have been done properly with ALL extraneous variables removed and any bias eliminated. I would also like to think that the results are tested to be valid & reliable before they report them.... I also think I would not be surprised if this wasn't the case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    There's nothing wrong with Science; good science is better. I think that's all many people are saying. I wouldn't agree that that constitutes a negative cynicism, which is what many people in this thread appear to believe.

    If it works great, well done science; but it needs more work, as the report states: has potential.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    To ask why people with reduced neurological function are less able to recover from a stroke is what someone interested in cure would ask.
    Someone interested in profit takes the evidence & uses it as a parameter on which to medicate.
    The genius of medical deflection takes your eye away from the obvious that many people who die of stroke do so from another cause, a disorder that this test picks up..

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Why do people always have a go at people spending money on science, you know that thing that move us on from the stone age, when no one seems to care that the UK art budget is more than double that of the UK science and research budget!? What kind of an ingnorant world do we live in where its fine if the UK owns a painting that'll sit in a room for years, where as science is frowned upon!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Is it just pot luck on how your teated when you enter a hosp?
    I was a lucky SOB
    Had stroke at work, made to walk to co.Medic in another building.
    Taken to hosp. on Thurs. No scan, fed asprins.
    No staff over wkend on xrays
    6 days later got an xray.. full bleeding stoke detected
    Taken off asprins
    Sent for CT scan to check for aneurysms. OK
    Sent home had stroke while Doc there.
    OK Luck ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    If you self administer this test and try to go to your G.P. To voice your worries - A you will not be able to get an appointment for 3 weeks and B your doctor will say it is stress or hypochondria!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    82.joan Bennett
    Always nice to hear of something turning out well and in the way you would hope if it was for you or yours, the fact your husband is better is undoubtedly to do with the support you give as well. Well done and I gope you both have a happy and long life together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Ref 90 who said
    " Unless we should just take handfuls of pills from 45 on until we die at 99 from old age"

    Dying is not the problem - NOT dying is and living like a vegetable is - also for one's family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I had a stroke 4 years ago and my life was probably saved because of hospital prompt treatment.

    I "lost" a futher 2 days there but prompt medical treatment and then therapy is essential.

    After 12 days in hopsital- and a daily nurse visits and a cook for 42 days I learned to walk agian and button up my shirt among other things.

    This was in Bolivia - would I get that here on the NHS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    82joan Bennett

    12 years ago my husband had a MAJOR stroke ... People do survive.
    with tlc and care
    The latter part is good to hear, Joan - about the tlc and survival. I can't see why anyone would downrate your post though. Must be some weird people around.

    Take care of yourselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Well, what then start them on blood thinners and statins? I mean we all need to die from something eventually. Unless we should just take handfuls of pills from 45 on until we die at 99 from old age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The thing here is the 'may' in the headline. I applaud all the 'behind the scenes' research that goes on (without it we'd be without a lot of things we take for granted) but why make a headline out of something which is far from concrete. Tell us about it without the 'may' and that will be something to celebrate. Now... back to my dot to dot...

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    I've had a few strokes over the years. Nurses always seem to help me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    84. mr_dancin_gecco

    It could be done by a medical profesional in minutes, perhaps by their GP,
    It doesnt need a medical "professional". A clerical assistant could do it. We dont pay GPs 100k plus to do stuff like this, or do we?


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