Study finds fatigue could predict death in older adults

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In older people, feeling tired after certain activities can indicate that death is less than three years away, a new study says.

The study, published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences by the University of Pittsburgh, is the first to link fatigue after physical activity to an increased risk of death, ScienceDaily reported.

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“This is the time of year when people make — and break — New Year’s resolutions to get more physical activity,” said lead author Nancy Glynn, a physical activity epidemiologist. “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.”

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Glynn and her colleagues administered the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale to 2,906 participants aged 60 and up in the Long Life Family Study, an international study that follows two generations of family members. Participants then “ranked from 0 to 5 how tired they thought or imagined that certain activities — such as a leisurely 30-minute walk, light housework or heavy gardening — would make them.”

After accounting for a variety of mortality-influencing factors such as COVID-19, depression, pre-existing conditions, age and gender, researchers found that participants who scored 25 points or higher on the Pittsburgh Fatigability Scale were more than twice as likely to die in the following 2.7 years compared to their counterparts who scored lower.

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“There has been research showing that people who increase their physical activity can decrease their fatigability score,” said Glynn. “And one of the best ways to increase physical activity — which simply means moving more — is by setting manageable goals and starting a routine, like a regular walk or scheduled exercise.”

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