Men experiencing exhaustion more likely to suffer heart attack, according to new research

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  • Vital exhaustion refers to excessive fatigue, often brought on by issues that are difficult to deal with
  • Research recently presented looked at the relationship between vital exhaustion and the risk of heart attack
  • It was revealed that men with vital exhaustion have an almost three times higher risk of heart attack 

Research presented on 13 March at the ESC Acute CardioVascular Care 2021 (an online scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology) suggests that men suffering from vital exhaustion have an increased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack).

This risk was even more distinct in men who were never married, divorced or widowed. 

“Vital exhaustion refers to excessive fatigue, feelings of demoralisation and increased irritability,” explained study 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.”

Examining vital exhaustion risk

The study assessed the relationship between vital exhaustion and the risk of heart attack in men with no history of heart-related disease, using data from the World Health Organization (WHO) MONICA Project (including a sample of 657 men aged 25 to 64).

Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that assessed symptoms of vital exhaustion at baseline, and were then classified according to a moderate or high level of vital exhaustion, or none at all. Based on the responses of these questionnaires, 67% of the men had vital exhaustion (15% high and 52% moderate) and 33% had none at all. 

Surprisingly, 74% of participants with high blood pressure also had vital exhaustion. Participants were followed-up for a period of 14 years to check for the incidence of heart attack.

The relationship between exhaustion and myocardial infarction

Findings of the research indicate that compared to men without it, those with vital exhaustion had a 2.7 times greater risk of suffering a heart attack during a period of five years. Upon deeper analysis, it was also found that single, widowed and divorced men with vital exhaustion had an even higher risk of suffering a heart attack. 

“Living alone indicates less social support, which we know from our prior studies is an independent risk factor for myocardial infarction and stroke,” Dr Panov said.

“Efforts to improve wellbeing 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.”

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