Cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, Director of the NYU Medical Center Women’s Heart Program says that the single biggest complaint she hears from patients is fatigue. For some the trouble is simply not making sleep a priority… burning the candle at both ends for too long. Your doctor will tell you that continually getting 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night is going to catch up with you… at any age.
If you’re getting the recommended, research supported 7 to 9 hours a night fairly regularly, and you’re still tired, it’s time to see your doctor to find out the causes of fatigue. While it could be the first sign of a more serious illness, most often the excessive tiredness is a more straightforward medical issue that has an easy fix.
Here are seven sometimes overlooked causes of fatigue for you to consider and discuss with your doctor.
1) Anemia. A woman in her reproductive years, especially if you have heavy periods, have recently given birth or have uterine polyps or fibroid tumors can lose enough blood to bring on anemia. This is one of the leading causes of fatigue in women. Your doctor will order a blood test and if anemia is the cause of your fatigue, you’ll be given iron supplements and urged to add natural food sources like spinach, broccoli and red meat to your diet. With treatment, your fatigue should lift in 30 days, or less.
2) Underactive thyroid. If you generally feel sluggish, run down or even a bit depressed, a slow thyroid could be the cause. Known as hypothyroidism, Goldberg believes this condition is one of the major health problems of women in the U.S., and may be much more widespread than anyone has realized.
According to the American Thyroid Foundation, by 60 years old, about 17% of women will have a thyroid disorder and not know it. To check, ask for blood tests known as T3 and T4 used to detect thyroid hormones, if they’re low, synthetic hormones can be prescribed to bring you back up to speed. You’ll start feeling better pretty quickly.
3) Undiagnosed urinary tract infection (UTI). In some instances, according to Goldberg, fatigue can be the only clue of a UTI a woman gets. You might have no other symptoms, or symptoms that are mild enough to go unnoticed.
UTIs are caused by bacteria in the urinary tract that can come from improper wiping (back to front) or sexual intercourse. A urine test will tell and the treatment is simple, involving an oral antibiotic medication. Your fatigue should lift within the week… perhaps sooner. If the symptoms return after being on medication, get tested again – sometimes UTIs can be chronic.
4) Caffeine Overload. For some women, the caffeine that revs most people up does the opposite for them. In an article in US Pharmacist, author W. Stephen Pray, Ph.D., RPh. agrees that caffeine is a stimulant, but if you use too much, the opposite can be true – abuse brings fatigue. If you try to solve the problem with yet more caffeine, your fatigue will actually get worse. Your best bet is to eliminate as much caffeine from your diet as you can. Look beyond coffee to chocolate, tea, soda and even some medications.
5) Food intolerances. Hidden food intolerances, even mild ones, can leave you feeling tired. Eat the troublesome food long enough and you could find yourself feeling continually exhausted. Fatigue is sometimes an early warning sign that food intolerance has developed. To find out, Rudy Rivera, MD suggests you start with an elimination diet, cutting out any food that has you feeling sleepy within 10 to 30 minutes of eating it.
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7 Causes For Feeling Fatigued… Continued…
6) Sleep apnea. Some people don’t realize they’re not getting sufficient sleep, and this is particularly true of sleep apnea, a disorder that causes you to stop breathing for a moment, usually many times during the night.
Each time you stop breathing you wake long enough to disrupt the natural sleep cycle. The only clue many patients have is that they experience constant fatigue, no matter how many hours of sleep a night they get.
Women who are overweight or obese are often diagnosed with the condition. Snoring is often another sign; though the definitive diagnosis comes from a visit to a sleep lab, or a physician who specializes in sleep disorders.
If you do have sleep apnea, your doctor will suggest lifestyle changes (stop smoking, lose weight) to help. Left untreated this condition can increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.
7) Undiagnosed heart disease. If you’re totally exhausted after doing things that used to be easy… like vacuuming, yard work, even your commute each day, then it’s time to talk to your doctor.
Fatigue is usually not the first sign of heart disease and is often the result of something much less serious. However it is an under diagnosed problem in women, even though heart disease is the leading cause of death for females. Medication or treatment can usually correct the problem and restore your energy level.
Our world is a busy one to be sure, but that does not doom us all to excessive tiredness. To always being tired, feeling awful. Whatever are the causes of fatigue in your life… keeping you feeling exhausted and dragging can be treated… all you need do is get the process started.