WEDNESDAY, Feb. 9, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Poor memory and problems with other mental skills may be early signs of an increased risk for stroke, a new study suggests.
Researchers gave a word recall memory test to 17,851 people, while 14,842 people were give a verbal fluency test designed to measure the brain's executive functioning skills. The participants, who were aged 45 and older (average age 67) and had never had a stroke, were then contacted twice a year for up to 4.5 years.
During the follow-up period, 129 people who took the memory test and 123 people who took the verbal fluency test suffered a stroke, the investigators found.
Among those who took the memory test, participants who scored in the bottom 20 percent were 3.5 times more likely to suffer a stroke than those who scored in the top 20 percent. Among those who took the verbal fluency test, participants who scored in the bottom 20 percent were 3.6 times more likely to have a stroke than those who scored in the top 20 percent.
Although the difference was not as significant at older ages, the study authors found that at age 50, people who scored in the bottom 20 percent of the memory test were 9.4 times more likely to have a stroke than those who scored in the top 20 percent.
The study findings were released online Feb. 9 and will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Honolulu in April.
Experts note that research presented at meetings has not been subjected to the same type of rigorous scrutiny given to research published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
"Finding ways to prevent stroke and identify people at risk for stroke are important public health problems," study author Abraham J. Letter, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in an AAN news release. "This study shows we might get a better idea of who is at high risk of stroke by including a couple of simple tests when we are evaluating people who already have some stroke risk."
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke risk factors.