A Positive Outlook May Help Older Adults Overcome Exhaustion
Researchers studied 4,584 men and women aged 69 years old or older to learn more about exhaustion. They discovered that recovery from exhaustion is likely for people who are positive about their overall health, take few medications, and are not obese or depressed.
New Research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
Exhaustion is the feeling that you lack enough energy to meet life's demands, and is a common symptom among older adults. According to the researchers of this study, exhaustion can worsen your quality of life and overall health.
The research team included geriatricians and other health care professionals from Duke University Medical Center, the University of Washington Health System, Johns Hopkins University Medical Institutions, the University of Vermont College of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, and the University of Pittsburgh.
Exhaustion is a key symptom in "frailty," the geriatric syndrome that makes it more likely for older adults to seek health care, become disabled, or die. Researchers suspect that exhaustion could be a signal to doctors that a patient's condition is likely to worsen.
To identify the people in the study who suffered from exhaustion, researchers asked: "How often have you had a hard time getting going?" and "How often does everything seem an effort?" If the participant answered "a moderate amount of time," or "most of the time" to either question, he or she was considered exhausted.
When the study began, researchers classified 964 of the 4,584 participants as exhausted. They were interviewed every year during the six-year study to see if their exhaustion improved. Of the people who were exhausted at the beginning of the study, 66% were exhaustion-free at least once during the study period.
During the study, the researchers then reviewed the participants' health status, including how many medications they took, their height and weight, and whether they were depressed or in pain. The researchers discovered that people were less likely to recover from exhaustion if they rated their health as poor, took six or more medications, or were obese and/or depressed. However, history of cancer or heart disease had no impact on recovery from exhaustion. "Recovery is especially likely among seniors who have a positive perception of their overall health, take few medications, and are not obese or depressed," said the researchers.
What You Should Know?
"I think it's important to emphasize that exhaustion is a symptom, not a disease or diagnosis," said Heather E. Whitson, MD, one of the study's authors. "Exhaustion may be caused by different things in different people, and many factors could contribute to exhaustion in the same patient. People who feel exhausted can take heart in our findings, because the study suggests that they have a good chance of becoming exhaustion-free at some point in the future," said Dr. Whitson, who is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Ophthalmology, Division of Geriatrics, at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC.
"Although our study doesn't address how to cure exhaustion, you may want talk to your doctor about whether your exhaustion could be a side effect of any of your medications, whether depression or stress may be contributing, and how you can achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle," Dr. Whitson added.
This summary is from the full report titled, "Patterns and Predictors of Recovery From Exhaustion in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study." It is in the February 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The report is authored by Heather E. Whitson, MD, MHS; Stephen Thielke, MD; Paula Diehr, PhD; Ann M. Oâ€™Hare, MD, MA; Paulo H.M. Chaves, MD, PhD; Neil A. Zakai, MD, MSc; Alice Arnold, PhD; Sarwat Chaudhry, MD; Diane Ives, MPH and Anne B. Newman, MD, MPH.