Almost 50 percent of all heart attack patients experience onerous fatigue four months after its occurrence, revealed a thesis presented at the Sahlgrenska Academy.
The study also found that the most fatigued patients were those who perceived heart attack to be a sign of chronic illness, those who experienced the illness as difficult to control, and those who believed that the illness had a large impact on their life.
A heart attack is nearly always a result of hardening of the coronary arteries, and is often triggered by a blood clot in such an artery. In the study, over 200 persons completed a questionnaire one week after they had experienced an attack and again four months later. Many of the patients were also interviewed.
Nearly half of the patients said that they felt onerous fatigue four months after the attack.
One third of the patients exhibited expressed fatigue, while one fifth also exhibited symptoms of depression.
"Many people experienced the fatigue as new, and different. It was not related to physical effort or a lack of rest; it occurred unpredictably and could not be attributed to any definite cause," said nurse Pia Alsen, author of the thesis.
"The patients' perception of their illness can be crucial in determining whether they benefit from this part of the treatment or not. A better understanding of the patients' perceptions of their illness can enable us to adapt the information individually for each patient, and encourage more patients to enter the follow-up programmes", says Alsen.
More patients perceived their illness to be chronic four months after the attack.
"The perception that the condition was a chronic one depended on the extent to which the patients reflected over what had happened. Those who were unwilling to examine causes and correlations perceived the infarction as an isolated event", said Alsen.
A further factor that influenced the patients' perceptions of their illness was whether they felt that they could influence the illness themselves, or whether they placed their trust in medication and other external factors.