Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Chronic fatigue, irritability and dejection are hard enough to deal with on their own, but even harder as a collective group known as vital exhaustion.
Unfortunately, vital exhaustion can lead to increased risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to a new study presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting this week in Chicago.
“Our study shows vital exhaustion is an important risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease in otherwise healthy people,” said study author Dr. Randy Cohen, medical director of the University Medical Practice Associates at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s. “Loss of vitality thus adds to a growing number of psychosocial risk factors that have now been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, including anxiety, depression, and social isolation.”
To reach their conclusion, the study team looked at the connection between vital exhaustion and the development of heart disease in 11 preliminary research studies, which included greater than 60,000 people without cardiovascular disease.
The study team saw that there was a 36-percent risk increase of first-time cardiovascular disease for patients with vital exhaustion.
“The identification of vital exhaustion as a coronary artery disease (CAD) risk factor appears timely,” said co-author Dr. Alan Rozanski, chief of cardiology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt. “As society becomes increasingly fast paced, there is an increasing tendency for people to overwork while cutting back on sleep, exercise, and the rest and relaxation we all need to renew ourselves and prevent the factors that cause vital exhaustion.”
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Researchers are also increasingly becoming worried about chronic fatigue and a study published several weeks ago revealed that intense exhaustion is connected to structural abnormalities in the brain.
“This is a very common and debilitating disease,” said study author Dr. Michael M. Zeineh, an assistant professor of radiology at Stanford University. “It’s very frustrating for patients, because they feel tired and are experiencing difficulty thinking, and the science has yet to determine what has gone wrong.”
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, the study team saw that total white-matter content in chronic fatigue patients’ brains was lower as opposed to that of control subjects’ brains. “White matter” refers to the long, cable-like nerve areas transporting signals among generally dispersed quantities of “gray matter,” which specializes in handling data.
The scientists regularly saw an abnormality in a section of the right hemisphere of fatigue patients’ brains known as the right arcuate fasciculus. The study team noted a correlation between the amount of abnormality in a patient’s right arcuate fasciculus and the degree of their chronic fatigue.
The researchers said their results support the use of right arcuate fasciculus size as a biomarker for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
“We used automated techniques to look at these tracts and were able to achieve 80 percent accuracy for CFS detection,” Zeineh said.
“This is the first study to look at white matter tracts in CFS and correlate them with cortical findings,” he added. “It’s not something you could see with conventional imaging.”