Surprising things that make you tired
No matter how early you go to bed, you’re still exhausted all the time, and you can’t imagine why. Fortunately, you don’t need Sherlock Holmes or Jane Marple to help you find out. If you’ve crossed off all the usual suspects, check for these four things that make you tired and fatigued.
1. Out-of-whack thyroid gland
Constant weariness may mean one of your body’s energy managers is acting up. The thyroid gland inside your neck produces thyroid hormone, which helps manage your body’s energy. The thyroid is more likely to be the cause of your fatigue if other members of your family have had thyroid problems, too.
Oddly enough, fatigue can be a symptom of a thyroid gland that produces too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism,) but it can also occur if your thyroid produces too much of the hormone (hyperthyroidism). Your other symptoms may help you tell which one may be your problem.
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) — weight gain, lack of energy, weakness, depression, memory problems, dry and itchy skin, high sensitivity to cold, daytime sleepiness, coarse and thinning hair, brittle hair or nails, or a yellow or orange tint in your skin.
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) — weight loss, high sensitivity to heat, hand tremors, difficulty sleeping, sweating, increased heart rate, irritability, anxiety, muscle weakness, or enlarged thyroid.
You may not have all of these symptoms. In fact, older adults often develop only one or two symptoms. Fortunately, your doctor can order blood tests to find out whether your thyroid is underactive, overactive, or just right.
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2. Lack of vitamin B12
Up to 15 percent of older adults are deficient in this important B vitamin because they no longer have enough stomach acid to help absorb the natural form of B12 from food. You may also be low in this vitamin if one of these describes you.
- You eat a restricted diet.
- You regularly take acid-reducing drugs like omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), lansoprazole (Prevacid), cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac), or famotidine (Pepcid).
- You take the diabetes drug Metformin.
- You have a condition, like celiac disease, that prevents you from absorbing nutrients well.
Knowing your risk of B12 deficiency is important because constant fatigue is one sign you may be low on this vitamin. Other possible symptoms include appetite loss, sore tongue, constipation, anemia, weight loss, weakness, and balance problems. You may also experience brain- or nerve-related symptoms like memory loss, difficulty walking, numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, depression, disorientation, and dementia.
Even worse, if you are deficient for too long, adding more B12 may come too late to undo nerve- and brain-related damage. Fortunately, reversing low B12 levels can be easy, and it may bring unexpected rewards.
For example, low B12 levels have been linked to frailty in older adults. So if you want to stay active and vigorous well into your senior years, be sure to get enough of this important vitamin. It will help you have more energy and feel healthier, and as a bonus, you’ll get stronger hair and nails.
To find out whether you have a B12 deficiency, talk to your doctor. She can test your levels and prescribe injections or recommend supplements if you need them. Meanwhile, eat cereals and other foods fortified with B12. People who don’t have enough stomach acid to absorb natural B12 can still absorb some of the synthetic B12 in fortified foods and supplements.
3. Side effects of common drugs
Statins are great for lowering cholesterol, but if you’ve been feeling tired lately, they could be the problem, a new study suggests. After six months of taking a low-dose statin, 40 percent of women participating in the study reported more fatigue during exercise or lower energy levels all the time. Statin drugs include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), rosuvastatin (Crestor), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), and simvastatin (Zocor).
Drug side effects like fatigue may begin when you start a new medication, but they can also appear when you switch to a new brand of the same drug, when your doctor raises the dosage, or even after you have taken a drug for a while. See below to read what other meds could be tiring you out.
Beware of drugs that sap your energy
Statins are not the only drugs that may cause fatigue. Consider this list of common offenders.
- prescription painkillers
- heart medications
- high blood pressure drugs including diuretics
- cholesterol-lowering drugs including fenofibrates
- anti-anxiety drugs, tranquilizers, and antidepressants
- tetracycline and other antibiotics
- over-the-counter and prescription allergy or cold medications that contain antihistamines like diphenhydramine
If you suspect one of your prescription medications is sapping your energy, don’t stop taking it without your doctor’s permission. That can be dangerous. Check www.drugs.com, or ask your pharmacist if fatigue is a side effect of your prescription.
If so, talk to your doctor. She can lower your dosage, switch to another medication, eliminate the drug, or suggest another change to relieve your fatigue.
4. Constant rush of adrenaline
Think about the last time you had a thrilling day planned. When the day arrived, you were probably so excited that you experienced an adrenaline rush. That made your heart pound and kept your energy high. After the excitement ended and the adrenaline rush wore off, you may have been surprised by how tired you suddenly were.
Stress works nearly the same way. Your body releases adrenaline to give you energy to cope with the cause of your stress. If the stress ends quickly, you may realize you’re tired and rest to recover. But if the stress is continuous, the adrenaline keeps coming, and you keep burning up your body’s energy by the truckload. Naturally, this contributes to physical and mental exhaustion, and may cause fatigue.
If you’re not sure whether stress is stealing your energy, put it to the test. Practice stress management exercises every day, and see if you feel more energetic. For example, take 10 minutes for a mental vacation at the beach or your favorite mountain spot. Imagine in vivid detail each of the sights, sounds, smells, and activities you would experience if you were spending a day there.
- FC&A Staff Writer