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Tired with feeling tired


November 2013

Laterlife had initial contact with the prestigious American National Institute on Aging when we were looking into the research they are undertaken on Alzheimer’s disease.

This August The Institute, part of the US department of Health and Human Services, is dedicated to understanding the nature of aging and supporting the health and wellbeing of older adults.

This means that, along with its work on Alzheimer’s, it is also at the forefront of a great deal of research into other aspects of aging.

One area which is particularly interesting is its research into tiredness. It says that tiredness and fatigue is a very common clinical complaint but can be very difficult to specify, diagnose and treat.  Often we just put tiredness down to our age, but there are many other factors that can be involved. Along with simple lack of sleep or over exertion, other aspects such as changes in our moods, lifestyle, diet, metabolism, or physical changes can all contribute towards tiredness. The biggest problem is that tiredness can be a symptom of underlying serious medical conditions such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease and rheumatoid arthritis and even psychiatric illnesses.

The Institute (www.nia.nih.gov) is undertaking continuing research on this and many other areas and of course research is also going on here in the UK.

In the meantime, if you have noticed a definite change in your energy levels and are complaining of feeling tired most of the time, it is very important to seek medical help. The doctor will initially ask you a number of questions including defining what you mean by tiredness.

This can be tricky, is it shortness of breath on exertion or just a feeling of mental exhaustion? Then you will be asked when it happened, have you had a recent illness or change in your life and so on.
The doctor will need as much information as possible.

Diabetes particular can be a cause of tiredness in the over 50s.  Often it can be accompanied by feeling thirsty, visiting the toilet more often than usual and weight loss, but this is not always the case and in some circumstances the only symptom a patient has is tiredness.

Anaemia is a really common cause for tiredness and a general feeling of being run down. You feel you can’t be bothered to do much and when you do undertake something, you tire quickly and easily.  This is due to the lack of iron in the body.

An underactive thyroid can also make one feel really tired, to the extent that your muscles can sometimes ache. This occurs more as we age and is more common in women than men. Doctors now have an easy blood test to determine the levels of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine in your body.

Anxiety and depression can cause significant tiredness.  General anxiety disorder is more than just been worried and causes constant, uncontrollable feelings of anxiety which can make the sufferer very tired.  Depression also makes you feel drained of energy and can be another cause of tiredness.

Tiredness and fatigue can be a symptom of celiac disease, when you have become intolerant to gluten which is used so commonly in breads, cakes and cereals. There has been a lot of recent research undertaken on celiac and diagnosis is fairly clear these days through a simple blood test.

Then of course there is chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME. This is a severe and disabling tiredness that can last for six months or more and can be accompanied by a sore throat or joint pain.

These are just some of the problems that tiredness can indicate. The important thing is that if you are feeling more tired than usual in your normal life, and you can’t think of any simple cause, then it is important to see your doctor.

However, if no serious underlying cause is found, the American National Institute on Aging say that sometimes simple lifestyle changes can help minimalize tiredness.

 

They recommend:

* Keep a fatigue diary so you can pinpoint certain times of the day or situations that make you feel more or less tired.
* Exercise regularly. Moderate exercise may improve your appetite, energy, and outlook. Some people find that exercises combining balance and breathing (for example tai chi and yoga) improve their energy.
* Try to avoid long naps that can leave you feeling groggy in the middle of the day and may make it harder to fall asleep at night.
* Stop smoking. Smoking is linked to many diseases and disorders such as cancer, heart disease, and breathing problems that can be a drain on your energy.
* Some people have so much to do that just thinking about it can make them feel tired. If you feel swamped, ask for help.





 

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The above article is part of the features section of laterlife.com called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to laterlife.com written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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