Study Links Frequent Fatigability to Future Development of Heart Attack


The feeling of lack of energy and motivation both physically and mentally otherwise called fatigue is normal, most especially as people get older. However when one begins to feel this way frequently, scientists have noted that it is an indication for developing stroke or heart attack in the nearest future.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health U.S, have found in a new study that becoming easily fatigued has more to do with a stroke or heart attack in years to come.

Explaining the meaning of fatigue, the study’s senior author, Jennifer Schrack said fatigue is a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness. She added that it is usually reported on a scale from 1 to 10 as “low energy,” which fails to give it context in relation to physical demand.

“Even if you’re exhausted because you have a newborn at home, this would be considered a very easy task. It should be very light exertion. When people think the effort is more than very light, that’s informative,” said Schrack, an associate professor in the epidemiology department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

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“What we’re seeing is that one symptom of cardiovascular risk is higher fatigability. So, if you’re tiring more easily, it could be connected to your cardiovascular health.”

Image of a man suffering from fatigue

According to the study, around 1.5 million people worldwide see their doctors about fatigue. Fatigue is a symptom, not a condition. For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

In order to affirm this claim, the researchers conducted an experiment using a pair of formulas to calculate the 10-year risk of heart disease or stroke in 625 people whose average age was 68. Then, after 4 to 5 years later, those participants had their so-called fatigability assessed with a simple test: an extremely slow walk. They walked for five minutes on a treadmill set at 1.5 mph.

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The treadmill test made it easier to measure fatigue, which is normally subjective, researchers said.

According to the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found people with higher cardiovascular risk scores were more likely to report being tired faster. The study added that association was stronger among people who were obese and who had high blood pressure.

“What we’re seeing is that one symptom of cardiovascular risk is higher fatigability. So, if you’re tiring more easily, it could be connected to your heart health.” The researchers explained.

The study’s lead author, Yujia “Susanna” Qiao, a former graduate student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, hoped that the findings raise awareness about the relationship between fatigability and heart disease, particularly among older adults.

In a related development, Dr Salim Virani, a cardiologist at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and a professor of cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said that while the study found a higher association with obesity and high blood pressure, it did not consider sleep apnea and other risk factors associated with easy fatigability.

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Schrack said people who notice their fatigue level increasing should start paying attention to cardiovascular risk factors.

“Is your blood pressure under control? Is your weight where it should be? These could be warning signs of problems that perhaps aren’t being properly treated,” she said.

“People don’t like to hear, ‘Eat right and exercise.’ These are two of the biggest pieces of public health advice, and we say it related to almost every condition. But it’s so true. People who are able to maintain their weight, maintain their activity level, tend to have less effects of fatigue and certainly less cardiovascular risk over time.” Schrack advised.



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