All words used by us and our medical world to describe the feeling of being run down which causes = an inability to get tasks done. People who complain of tiredness often say that it makes it difficult to get stuff done, they can’t work for long periods or have trouble getting going. But in a world where it feels like we’re all living in a state of exhaustion, deciding what is normal and what is not is no easy task!
In this article, we are going to start the series on what we talk about as NORMAL parts of aging. We ask the question … is it really that normal? Can we improve it? Are we using normal as an excuse? This week we try to tackle “tiredness”
In the science world, we call this fatigue. I did a quick search and there are almost 80, 000 published articles on fatigue in the science community. 80,000! This tells you that this is a HUGE topic. To discuss it would be to take up multiple chapters in a book and a ton of time.
To try to focus in on the topic, we ask the question… is it something to expect as we get older?
When I was trying to look for the exact link between fatigue and aging I actually had a really hard time finding research to back anything up. It seems that there is a lot of great guesses happening but still a lot of work to be done in this area. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that fatigue is such a difficult concept to really nail down. It is subjective – what one persons describes as fatigue or exhaustion, another person calls their average Tuesday morning. Some people manage their energy better, or just have a higher energy level in general than other people. Because the definition of tiredness can mean something different to each person, studying the impact of fatigue can be difficult to do.
But we need to start somewhere.
What causes fatigue IN GENERAL?
The Mayo clinic does a great job of talking about factors that can cause fatigue. Roughly speaking they can be broken down into lifestyle and medical factors.
Lifestyle factors can be things like
– Not getting enough sleep or having insomnia
– Trying to do too much in a day
– Over doing it with exercise
– Grieving the loss of a loved one
– Being dehydrated
Medical factors can be in the diagnosis of a variety of chronic health conditions or issues such as
– Multiple sclerosis
– Heart disease
– COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
– Kidney Disease
– And others ….
When your body is fighting an issue that has been around for a long time, it takes up more of your energy.
Could this be the link?
Getting older = More chance of having a chronic condition = More chance for having tiredness or fatigue
It’s possible. I think it is also likely that this in some definitely contributes to the feeling of fatigue that is often seen as a “normal” part of aging.
But some older adults have zero chronic issues. For these individuals, some researchers have started to discuss reasons why there might be fatigue with aging. Why it could be a normal part of the aging process.
They discuss how, as we get older, some of our body systems start to slow down. This is a normal part of the aging process. Some of this slowing that may contribute to fatigue include less reaction time, less ability for our rib cage to expand, an increase in blood pressure and less muscle strength. Certain parts of these systems aren’t modifiable – they won’t change. But SOME CAN!
Is tiredness a NORMAL part of aging?
To a certain degree unfortunately the answer appears to be yes. We don’t have the same amount of energy when we’re 80 as we did when we were 20. But the message I want to try and get across is that it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve it.
There are different ways of labelling fatigue and if it is long-lasting and disruptive it may not be a normal part of aging but rather a condition known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS. If this might be you, you may want to bring it up with your doctor.
Can we STAVE OFF signs of tiredness?
This may seem counter-intuitive but
When we exercise (and not to the point of exhaustion!), our bodies become more alert and active
Going back to our 5 pillars, sleep, nutrition and physical activity can help to keep your body working as well as it can to help fight off signs of tiredness and fatigue. In regards to medical care, talking with your doctors about the medications you are on and ensuring that none have side effects that are making you feel too drowsy or tired is important.
As much as we slow down, the amount of tiredness we feel and the impact that it has in our day-to-day lives can be hugely changed. I know a lot of persons in the 80s who say they have more energy than they did 20 years ago because they started eating better and exercising! This could be you! Don’t let an expectation of tiredness with age stop you from trying to improve it. We can help you!
Stay tuned – next week we tackle weakness.