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Common and Uncommon Causes of Fatigue

Fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of menopause, affecting up to 80% of women during their transition. Fatigue is a general feeling of tiredness, exhaustion, and decreased energy levels. Fatigue in menopausal women is usually caused by hormonal fluctuations, but fatigue can also be a result of lifestyle factors like lack of exercise and insufficient sleep. This article features some of the most common and uncommon causes of fatigue.

Lack of sleep is a common cause of fatigue

Common Causes

There are many common causes of fatigue, the principal one being hormonal imbalance.

1

Hormonal imbalance

Hormonal fluctuations are the leading cause of menopausal fatigue. Estrogen and progesterone are important hormones that help the body feel tired and maintain a deep sleep. When these hormone levels decrease during menopause, women have more difficulty sleeping. Aside from hormonal causes of fatigue, there are also common lifestyle causes of fatigue.

2

Insufficient exercise

Inactivity causes loss in muscle cells, which subsequently leads to muscle loss. Weak muscles requires more effort from the body, draining energy levels quickly. Studies have shown that regular exercise significantly boosts energy levels and reduces stress. It is generally recommended to get aerobic exercise at least five times per week, typically in half-hour segments. Biking, walking, swimming, and yoga are all effective forms of low-impact exercise.

3

Stress

Being overly stressed can make you more susceptible to fatigue, as well as many bothersome symptoms like headaches. This is because the body expends more energy when you are stressed.

4

Poor diet

Eating a poor diet high in saturated fat and salt can cause fatigue, so it is important to maintain a healthy diet. Try to include as many fruits and vegetables, protein, and whole grains into your diet as possible. Skipping meals causes a drop in blood sugar, which can lead to headaches and fatigue. It is recommended to eat small, healthy meals and snacks often (about every three to four hours) in order to prevent fatigue.

5

Lack of sleep

This may seem like an obvious cause of fatigue, but many people do not get enough sleep each night. Eight hours is the general recommendation for optimal performance and energy.

Uncommon Causes

Aside from hormonal and lifestyle causes of fatigue, there are several uncommon medical causes as well. These medical causes include both physical and psychological factors.

1

Depression 

Depression can drain energy levels and severely affect one's ability to carry out everyday activities.

2

Anemia

Anemia is typically defined as the decrease in red blood cells, which affects the body's ability to transport oxygen. Fatigue is a common symptom of anemia.

3

Being over or underweight

Being overweight causes fatigue because of the body has to work harder carrying the extra weight. Conversely, being underweight causes fatigue because the body is weaker, requiring more effort to be expended.

All of these common and uncommon causes of fatigue and can seriously interfere with a person's ability to carry out daily tasks. While the common lifestyle causes of fatigue are easy to prevent with proper diet, sleep, and exercise, the uncommon medical causes may be harder to manage. With dealing with things like depression or anemia, medical attention is typically required. Being over- or underweight can be managed by eating healthy meals and exercising regularly.

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Sources:
  • National Health Service UK. (2013). Why am I tired all the time? Retrieved August 8, 2014 from, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/why-am-I-tired.aspx
  • National Health Service UK. 2013). Why lack of sleep is bad for your health. Retrieved August 8, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx
  • National Institutes of Health. (2014). Fatigue. Retrieved August 8, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/fatigue.html