The study, appearing in the Journal of the American Heart Association, looked at a participant pool of 625 individuals with an average age of 68 years.
The study team found that those who tired easily had an overall higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease.
Then, 4.5 years later, they assessed each participant with a test that consisted of “an extremely slow walk.” Each person had to walk for 5 minutes on a treadmill set at a pace of 1.5 miles per hour. This exercise test was to examine their “fatigability.”
After studied all the data, the researchers found that those who had higher cardiovascular risk scores from years ago were more likely to report that this simple physical task was exhausting.
“Even if you’re exhausted because you have a newborn at home, this would be considered a very easy task,” says study author Jennifer Schrack, an associate professor in the epidemiology department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD.
“It should be very light exertion. When people think the effort is more than very light, that’s informative.”
Risks of cardiovascular disease on the rise
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). While the current numbers of deaths due to CVD are high, experts believe they will increase over the next 15 years from 17.9 million in 2016 to over 23.6 million in 2030 around the world.
The American Heart Association (AHA) estimate there are 85.6 millions of people in the United States with more than one type of CVD, and approaching half of these adults are 60 years old or above.
Eating well is a significant part of having a healthy cardiovascular system. This means consuming foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium. It is also vital to include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish if not vegetarian or vegan, nuts, legumes, and seeds.
Also, it is crucial to be physically active. The WHO goal for maintaining a healthy heart is to do at least 150 minutes each week of moderate anerobic exercise, such as brisk walking.
Many people break this up into five 30-minute sessions each week. Alternatively, they can swap this regime for 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise, such as jogging or running.
Implications of the study
Dr. Salim Virani, a cardiologist at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and a professor of cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who did not participate in the study, voiced one criticism of this latest investigation.
He notes that the researchers did not measure “fatigability” at the beginning of the study, which would have allowed them to compare the two tests 4.5 years later.
However, Schrack says that people can use this symptom as a sign that they should pay more attention to their cardiovascular health and possibly make changes that could reduce their risk of CVD.
“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 relat[ing] to almost every condition. But it’s so true.”
“People who are able to maintain their weight, maintain their activity level, tend to have [fewer] effects of fatigue and certainly less cardiovascular risk over time,” concludes Schrack.