We all have those days where we drag, and it takes everything we have just to do the bare minimum. It’s usually because we had too many late nights or spent too many long hours working. Being tired all the time has become so common that it has earned its own acronym, TATT. Fatigue in older adults may be common, but it is definitely not something to should be ignored.
Two out of every five Americans report feeling tired most of the week, and research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that one in three adults fails to get enough sleep. But chronic tiredness or exhaustion that lasts for an extended period is not normal and should be addressed with your doctor.
Unexplained tiredness is one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor. It seems simple and innocent. However, being tired all the time could be a sign that something more serious is going on with your health. Here are some of the top conditions to help explain persistent fatigue in older adults.
Reasons for Always Being Tired
There are many causes for tiredness in older adults. Most of them are treatable if detected early.
1. Sleeping Problems
It’s the most obvious cause of fatigue in older adults, but difficulty sleeping is pretty common, especially as we age. Our sleep cycle begins to change as we get older. Falling and staying asleep can become a real challenge, preventing us from getting adequate and quality sleep. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, can also make getting a good night’s rest a challenge.
2. Chronic Pain
Fatigue in older adults is often a symptom of chronic pain from various conditions, such as arthritis. Chronic pain can deplete your body of energy from continuously fighting off pain and inflammation. In addition to feeling physically tired, chronic pain can emotionally drain you, further contributing to your overall tiredness and fatigue.
Iron deficiency is a common condition affecting aging populations. It’s estimated that roughly 17 percent of adults over the age of 65 are anemic. People suffering from anemia are often plagued with fatigue. Fatigue caused by anemia results from a lack of red blood cells, which are responsible for bringing oxygen from your lungs to your tissues and cells. Other signs of anemia include feeling weak, sluggish, or lightheaded. Anemia is typically a very treatable condition and can be managed with medications and dietary changes.
4. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections become increasingly common in older adults. They are usually coupled with other conditions and can pose severe risks to your health. They also produce several side effects one wouldn’t usually think of with a UTI, including extreme fatigue. As your body fights the infection, it becomes weak and zapped of energy.
5. B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is crucial for brain health and your immune system. Fatigue in older adults is usually one of the first signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency. As we age, our body’s ability to absorb B12 declines, making it difficult to maintain adequate levels. Also, certain medications, such as those for diabetes and heartburn, can make it even more difficult for your body to absorb B12. Tingling in your hands and feet, memory lapses, and dizziness are also symptoms of a B12 deficiency. A simple blood test can detect whether or not you’re low on B12. If so, your provider will work with you to adjust your diet and/or add supplements to your daily regimen.
It can be challenging for seniors to stay hydrated. Certain conditions and hormonal changes can decrease your thirst, making it so you’re not reaching for your water on a regular basis. Hydration is needed to keep your entire body functioning properly. If you’re dehydrated, you could experience sudden fatigue and tiredness. If you have a bad habit of not drinking enough water, it’s a good idea to set a reminder on your phone throughout the day as a friendly reminder to drink up.
7. Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. It is a term that encompasses a range of conditions that can affect your heart. Examples include coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart infections, and diseases of the heart muscle. These are conditions you may not even be aware you’re suffering from. Symptoms can range from shortness of breath to chest pain and even feelings of fatigue. Many conditions can be treated and monitored to prevent further damage. However, when it comes to your heart, time is of the essence, so don’t wait to get your heart checked, even if you don’t think your fatigue is a result of it.
When to See a Doctor
If you’ve been exhausted for a long time, you probably don’t even remember what it feels like to have a healthy level of energy. You’re probably so used to feeling tired that its signs and symptoms have just become the norm. But it’s important to recognize the symptoms so you can address them with your primary care provider. Common signs and symptoms of fatigue in older adults:
- Complaints of tiredness or sleepiness
- Sleeping an excessive amount at night
- Napping frequently during the day
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Loss of motivation
- Agitation or anxiety
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, call 866-926-3831 and schedule an appointment with a VIPcare provider near you. Your fatigue could be pointing to a more serious condition that must be addressed immediately.