Fatigue is a common symptom in older populations, but it is often ignored as many patients and healthcare providers assume it is a natural progression of aging
Fatigue is not just being tired or sleepy. It is a medical condition that impacts your physical and mental state and your ability to think clearly, stay motivated and do the things you enjoy.
Fatigue is characterized by a constant, unrelenting feeling of exhaustion that often develops gradually over time — is very common among the aging population.
Everyone feels tired now and then. But, after a good night's sleep, most people feel refreshed and ready to face a new day. Fatigue, on the other hand, is a more long-term, all-encompassing condition and involves both physical and mental exhaustion.
Physical Symptoms of Fatigue
Mental symptoms of fatigue
Mental fatigue may involve feeling depressed or have trouble concentrating or remembering things. In other words, whereas physical fatigue involves not having enough physical strength or endurance to perform an activity, mental fatigue involves not having enough mental energy or motivation to do so.
According to the National Institute on Aging, there can be several factors that may cause increased fatigue as we age.
Physical Causes Sometimes, fatigue can be the first sign that something is wrong in your body. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful condition that affects the joints, often complain of fatigue. People with cancer may feel fatigued from the disease, treatments, or both. Many medical problems and treatments can add to fatigue. These include:
Emotional Causes Are you fearful about the future? Do you worry about your health and who will take care of you? Are you afraid you are no longer needed? Emotional stresses like these can take a toll on your energy. Fatigue can be linked to many conditions, including:
Lifestyle Habits Some lifestyle habits can make you feel tired. Here are some things that may be draining your energy:
Can boredom cause fatigue? Being bored can make you feel tired. That may sound strange, but it’s true. If you were very busy during your working years, you may feel lost about how to spend your time when you retire. When you wake up in the morning, you may see long days stretching before you with nothing planned. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Engaging in social and productive activities that you enjoy, like volunteering in your community, may help maintain your well-being. Think about what interests you and what skills or knowledge you have to offer and look for places to volunteer.
The best way to prevent fatigue is to follow healthy habits on a daily basis. This includes:
Diet. Eating nutritiously and drinking enough water are both essential to an overall healthy lifestyle. Eating numerous smaller meals throughout the day, since they’ll have a consistent source of energy. People over 50 are more likely to experience nutrient deficiencies — especially vitamins B12 and D, iron and folic acid — that cause fatigue.
Exercise. It sounds counterintuitive, but if your loved one leads a relatively sedentary lifestyle, exercising more could help them feel less fatigued. This is inpart because a lack of exercise leads to muscle loss, which can make it more difficult to perform routine tasks. Exercise can also provide energy and improve your loved one’s mood. If you have not been active for a while, though, be sure to ask a doctor, physical therapist, or sports therapist before they attempt a new workout.
Stress-relieving techniques. People often find that mindfulness practices and exercises such as yoga and tai chi help them feel less stressed. Planning enjoyable activities could also help you socialize and feel happier and more fulfilled, thereby lowering your risk of developing anxiety or depression.