Too Tired Too Much

What ordinary malady accounts for more than 10 million doctor visits in the U.S. every year? It’s fatigue, which is not an illness, but a symptom with many possible causes. Sometimes feeling tired can be the result of thyroid problems, heart disease, anemia and depression. But more often it is simply lifestyle that is to blame.

Here are some of the most common causes of fatigue, and ways to combat them:

POOR NUTRITION Without adequate food for fuel, you may run out of gas before your day is ended. Eating a diet high in fat and sugar, or eating too little, can cause fatigue. To get the most mileage from your food, eat a balanced diet, including breakfast, and spread your calories throughout the entire day.

STRESS Worry and mental tension can quickly drain your energy. Think about the top stressors in your life. Are there ways to reduce or eliminate them? You could carpool or bus to work to reduce commuter stress; learn to prioritize; say no to activities that don’t fit your lifestyle; and schedule some time every day to really relax and recharge your batteries.

LACK OF EXERCISE Several recent studies, including one reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that even older folks who exercised four times a week fell asleep faster and slept deeper than nonexercisers. Physical activity also boosts certain chemicals in your brain and body that increase energy.

DEHYDRATION Drinking at least eight tall glasses of water a day has numerous benefits, but one that many people don’t know about is reducing fatigue. Be sure you are getting enough fluids to keep your body working efficiently.

DEPRESSION Nearly half of those who seek medical care for fatigue in this country suffer from depression. Along with fatigue, other symptoms of depression include sleep problems (which cause fatigue), feelings of hopelessness, and loss of interest in normal activities. Depression can be treated with medication, therapy or both. If you think you are suffering from persistent depression, it may be time to seek help.

If these self-help measures don’t work, talk with your health care provider. Your fatigue may have a medical basis if it comes on suddenly, lasts more than a few weeks or seems unusually severe. Fortunately, most medical causes of fatigue are treatable. So don’t take it lying down.

SOURCE: Harvard Health Letter, 10/97

Many people have a tendency to gain excess body fat around their middle section. A pot belly acts as a load that pulls your spine forward and out of balance. The abdominal muscles become weak from the strain of supporting your belly, then the back muscles tighten which can cause achiness or contribute to injury.

Tips: Reduce your excess body fat with aerobic exercise every other day. Also, strengthen your abdominal muscles with curl-ups several times a week.

When to seek MEDICAL CARE for your back: Most back pain isn’t caused by anything more serious than strain from overuse or poor posture. But sometimes it comes from problems with the disks or other sources like kidney disease or cancer. A backache accompanied by the following symptoms may require medical attention:

  • weakness, numbness or tingling in the legs or buttocks
  • a change in bladder or bowel habits
  • any pain that worsens or lasts beyond a few weeks
  • fever, weight loss, abdominal pain or burning on urination
  • history of cancer




ARTHRITIS is joint inflammation, characterized by pain, swelling, stiffness and redness. It has several causes. The most universal form is osteoarthritis, which wears down the cartilage in frequently-used joints; it is one of the most common disorders affecting millions of Americans. Another form is rheumatoid arthritis, which attacks the joints’ lining causing chronic inflammation; it is believed to be an autoimmune disease. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and cases are expected to rise 50% in the next 25 years.

Just Ask! The Arthritis Foundation, 800-283-7800.


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