Cardiovascular Responses of Women with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to Stressful Cognitive Testing Before and After Strenuous Exercise

LaManca JJ, Peckerman A, Sisto SA, DeLuca J, Cook S, Natelson BH. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Cooperative Research Center, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to compare the cardiovascular responses of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) to healthy control subjects when performing stressful cognitive tasks before and after strenuous exercise.

METHOD: Beat-by-beat blood pressure and electrocardiogram were recorded on 19 women with CFS and 20 healthy nonexercising (i.e., sedentary) women while they performed cognitive tests before, immediately after, and 24 hours after incremental exercise to exhaustion.

RESULTS: Diminished heart rate (p <.01) and systolic (p <.01) and diastolic (p <.01) blood pressure responses to stressful cognitive testing were seen in patients with CFS when compared with healthy, sedentary controls. This diminished stress response was seen consistently in patients with CFS across three separate cognitive testing sessions. Also, significant negative correlations between self-ratings of CFS symptom severity and cardiovascular responses were seen (r = -0.62, p <.01).

CONCLUSIONS: Women with CFS have a diminished cardiovascular response to cognitive stress; however, exercise did not magnify this effect. Also, the data showed that the patients with the lowest cardiovascular reactivity had the highest ratings of CFS symptom severity, which suggests that the individual response of the patient with CFS to stress plays a role in the common complaint of symptoms worsening after stress.

PMID: 11573024

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