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Exhaustion increases the risk of a heart attack

Men are more likely to have a heart attack when they are suffering from fatigue and extreme irritability, which are symptoms of a condition known as vital exhaustion. The link between exhaustion and heart attack risk is stronger among men who are not married, according to a study from the European Society of Cardiology.

“Vital exhaustion refers to excessive fatigue, feelings of demoralisation and increased irritability,” said study lead author Dr. Dmitriy Panov. “It is thought to be a response to intractable problems in people’s lives, particularly when they are unable to adapt to prolonged exposure to psychological stressors.”

The study was focused on 657 men between the ages of 25 and 64 with no history of cardiovascular disease who participated in the World Health Organization (WHO) MONICA Project.

The men were classified according to their level of vital exhaustion – none, moderate, or high – and were followed up with for 14 years.

Overall, two-thirds of the men were suffering from vital exhaustion, while 33 percent were unaffected. Among individuals with high blood pressure, 74 percent had vital exhaustion.

Men with moderate or high levels of vital exhaustion were found to have nearly three times the risk of a heart attack within five years.

Middle-aged men were more affected than younger men. The risk of a heart attack connected with exhaustion was nearly four times higher in 45 to 54-year-olds, and about six times higher in 55 to 64-year-olds.

Furthermore, exhaustion-related heart attack risk was up to seven times higher among men who were never married, divorced, or widowed. 

“Living alone indicates less social support, which we know from our prior studies is an independent risk factor for myocardial infarction and stroke,” said Dr. Panov. He noted that the research revealed a pattern whereby social disadvantage relates to vital exhaustion, which is associated with a greater risk of heart disease. 

“The relationship of exhaustion with threatening cardiovascular events should be taken into account when assessing risk,” said Dr. Panov.

“Efforts to improve well-being and reduce stress at home and at work can help reduce vital exhaustion. Involvement in community groups is one way to increase social support and become less vulnerable to stress. Together with a healthy lifestyle, these measures should be beneficial for heart health.”

The research was presented at ESC Acute CardioVascular Care 2021.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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