Natural Health

When “Feeling Tired” Is Something More Serious…

When “Feeling Tired” Is Something More Serious… about undefined
Feeling tired? That’s understandable if you’ve had a busy day at the office, thrown yourself into yardwork or just completed an aerobics session. But what if you’ve done nothing more than water the plants or watch TV?

How fatigued certain activities make an older person feel is not something to take lightly. A recent study shows your level of fatigue can indicate health trouble is brewing and even predict the likelihood of your death within the next three years.

Here’s the story and how to measure your own fatigue level…

Older people often feel tired. Common it may be, but this symptom shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand because fatigue is strongly linked with disability and mortality.

When Dr. Nancy Glynn at the University of Pittsburgh realized back in 2011 there was no reliable tool for measuring physical and mental fatigue, she set about devising and validating one herself.

The Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale 

The tool she came up with applies to people aged 60 and over. It’s called the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale (PFS), where fatigability is defined as “whole-body tiredness anchored to quantifiable activities/tasks of fixed intensity and duration.”

Taking the PFS involves nothing more than answering ten questions relating to how much fatigue a person experiences when carrying out certain tasks for a set period during the previous month.

Questions range from sitting in a chair to light household activities to heavy gardening. The responder is asked to put a circle around a number from zero (no fatigue) to five (extreme fatigue) for physical fatigue and then do the same thing separately for mental fatigue. Total scores range from zero to fifty for each.

Even if the activity hasn’t been engaged in during the previous month, or has never been engaged in at any time, responders must still provide an answer as to how they expect or imagine they would feel immediately after completing the activity.

Researchers validated the results of the PFS test in a study of more than a thousand older adults in 2014. Interestingly, people’s actual or imagined feelings of fatigue corresponded with their performance on physical tests.

Now that the tool was shown to be reliable, it was time to see if it could really predict mortality.

First Study to Link Fatigue to Earlier Death 

For the new study 2,906 men and women with an average age of 73 filled out the questionnaire. Researchers assessed physical but not mental fatigue for this trial.

After accounting for many factors that influence mortality, the team found participants who scored 25 points or higher on the PFS were 2.3 times more likely to die in the 2.7 year follow up period, compared to those who scored below 25.

This is the first study to establish perceived physical fatigability as an indicator of earlier mortality. Dr. Glynn said, “This is the time of year when people make -- and break -- New Year's resolutions to get more physical activity. I hope our findings provide some encouragement to stick with exercise goals.

“Previous research indicates that getting more physical activity can reduce a person's fatigability. Our study is the first to link more severe physical fatigability to an earlier death. Conversely, lower scores indicate greater energy and more longevity.”

Testing Yourself with the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale (PFS) 

If you’d like to see where you fall on the PFS take the one-page test below. Remember, if you score 25 or higher—especially if you’re over the age of 60— the research suggests you need to kick-start your exercise regimen to increase your lifespan.pastedGraphic.png

Establishing an Exercise Intervention 

Dr. Glynn hopes that her test will not only identify those in need of making a change to their exercise regimen but will also be a springboard to developing an exercise intervention.

Dr. Glynn explains, saying, "While the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale has been widely adopted in research as a reliable, sensitive way to measure fatigability, it is underutilized in hospital settings and clinical trials.

"My ultimate goal is to develop a physical activity intervention targeting a reduction in fatigability as a means to stem the downward spiral of impaired physical function common with the aging process. By reducing fatigability, one can change how they feel, potentially motivating them to do more."

My Takeaway 

Of course, you don’t have to wait for Dr. Glynn’s physical activity intervention. If you’re not getting enough exercise, get moving and get started right away. If you are struggling with fatigue, eating a healthier diet can also help increase your energy level. As can observing regular bedtimes and wake times.

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