NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia — Single, middle-aged men who are often tired and irritable are at particular risk of a heart attack, according to research. Researchers say that being unable to cope with living alone leads to stressors that can lead to a 2.7 times higher risk of cardiac arrest within five years.
Men who have never married, are divorced, or widowed are more likely to suffer from vital exhaustion, the study shows. Conversely, married men have the lowest risk due to having social support.
“Vital exhaustion refers to excessive fatigue, feelings of demoralization, and increased irritability,” says study author Dr. Dmitriy Panov of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, in a statement. “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.”
Researchers studied 657 men aged 25 to 64 and found two-thirds of men had vital exhaustion, 15 percent at a high level. Three-quarters of men with high blood pressure had vital exhaustion, with high levels at 58 percent.
Compared to those without vital exhaustion, men with moderate or high levels were 16 percent more likely to have a heart attack over 14 years of follow-up, compared to those without, after adjusting for social factors and age. In the adjusted analysis, the risk of a heart attack linked with exhaustion was higher in never married, divorced, and widowed men compared to married men.
Middle-aged men were more affected than younger men. In fact, the older a man is, the worse his risk. Compared to 24- to 34-year-olds, the risk of a heart attack connected with exhaustion was 3.8-fold higher in 45- to 54-year-olds and 5.9-fold higher in 55- to 64-year-olds.
“Living alone indicates less social support, which we know from our prior studies is an independent risk factor for myocardial infarction and stroke. The relationship of exhaustion with threatening cardiovascular events should be taken into account when assessing risk,” says 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, an online scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology.
SWNS writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.