Drawing test could help establish those most at increased risk of death following a stroke (Reuters)

A simple drawing test can predict a person's risk of dying after a stroke, a study claims.

The study, carried out by researchers in Sweden, set out to determine those who were most at risk of death by a stroke by using a cognitive test.

Strokes continue to be a leading cause of death and disability, with old age and impaired cognitive function beforehand leading to higher risks of a lasting or fatal aftermath. The study may offer a new method of spotting those most at risk.

Around 1,000 men, aged between 65 and 75, had their intellectual capacities assessed using the trail making test (TMT), which involves drawing lines between numbers and letters in ascending orders as quickly as possible.

The participants were also given the mini-mental state exam (MMSE), in the form of a series challenges to test their memory, numeracy and orientation skills.

Between 1991 and 2006, 155 participants suffered a first stroke, with 54 percent of them (84) going on to die within an average of 2.5 years and 22 of them dying within a month of the stroke.

It was found that those who had performed badly on the TMT were found to be more likely to have died after other health and lifestyle factors were taking into account.

Men whose scores were in the bottom 30 percent of the results were found to be as much as three times more likely to die following a stroke as those who were in the highest 30 percent.

The association was not found with MMSE results, which made the TMT results more noticeable.

The research group, from Uppsala University, used data from the Uppsala Longitudinal Study of Adult Men, which has been analysing risk factors for strokes and heart disease in more than 2,000 men since the age of 50.

Authors of the study, published in BMJ Open, said that the TMT test is more likely to pick up latent cognitive problems, which may not have produced symptoms, such as silent cerebrovascular disease.

They conclude that the TMT test, which is readily available, "may not be used as a tool for identifying risk of stroke, but may also be considered important predictors of post-stroke mortality".