February 2, 2010

UK: Trouble concentrating in old age 'linked to greater risk of stroke'

. LONDON, England / The Telegraph / Lifestyle / Health News / February 2, 2010 By Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent Trouble concentrating in old age could be a warning sign that someone is at greater risk of suffering a stroke, doctors believe. But a simple test could help identify those in danger, they say. Illustrative photo courtesy: The Therapy Agency Researchers found that those who struggled most with tests which involved paying attention and completing tasks were three times as likely to have a stroke as those who found them easy. More than 150,000 people in Britain have a stroke every year. Of these, one in three will die from the condition while many who survive are left disabled. Although doctors know a number of risk factors which make people more likely to have a stroke, such as suffering from high blood pressure, often the attacks can strike out of the blue. The new study looked at the ability to concentrate of 930 healthy men, who between them had an average age of 70. The volunteers were all asked to sit a test, called the Trail Making Test B, which measures their ability to pay attention and carry out a task. The men were then followed over the next 13 years, during which time 166 of them suffered some form of stroke. The doctors found that those who had performed worst on the test were three times more likely to have a stroke than those who performed best. "Our results support the idea that cognitive decline … may predict risk of stroke," said Dr Bernice Wiberg, from Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the study. "The Trial Making Test B is a simple and cost-effective test that, with more research, could be used to identify those persons for whom stroke prevention measures should be considered." The test involves making a series of connections between letters and numbers on a computer screen. Volunteers are tested on how long it takes them to complete the test. The findings are published in the journal Neurology. [rc] © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2010