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Fatigue: Normal or Not?

When is being tired not normal? Dr. Petersen explains.
Everyone is familiar with all-out energy drain -- that exhausted day (or night) when no matter how enticing that new movie, fabulous shoe sale, or friendly barbecue, we just can't psych ourselves up to go. What can be harder to recognize is a low-grade energy drain. In this case, you may not necessarily feel the classic signs of exhaustion -- like achy muscles or that all-over tired feeling. What you do experience is an increasing lack of get-up-and-go for many of the activities you used to love. If this is starting to sound familiar, take heart. Energy zappers are all around us, some obvious, some hidden. The good news: There is a way around almost all of them.

Our expert  today has been treating patients with severe to moderate fatigue and has dedicated his career to helping patients regain their health, Dr. Andrew Petersen. Lack of energy or fatigue has to be a hot topic these days with the stress we all have in our lives.

Tell us what your definition of ‘fatigue’ is and how we identify certain markers that it’s not necessary ‘normal’.

 Low energy or moderate fatigue is common in today’s society. 27% of patients complain to their primary care doctor about fatigue that interferes with their daily lives. Fatigue is one of the most common complaints in medicine, accounting for an estimated 10 million doctor office visits each year.

Because fatigue is a common feature of everyday life but also a common symptom of so many different medical conditions, it can be difficult for doctors to properly assess and treat. In many cases, the most important medical response to persistent fatigue is to get tested for potential underlying physical or psychological medical conditions.

To further explain, fatigue is extreme tiredness and an inability to perform everyday tasks with your usual amount of energy. You may also find it harder to concentrate on tasks, and, eventually, you can also find your patience grows short and your level of frustration rises, even when confronted with seemingly simple challenges.

How do we know if it’s more than having low energy?
Fatigue is not always a sign of a serious medical condition. At some point, nearly everyone suffers from fatigue. In most cases, it's acute fatigue -- fatigue that occurs suddenly but lasts less than three months and is usually caused by lifestyle or environmental factors such as physical exertion, stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, or inadequate diet. In most cases, it's easily treated by addressing the cause: by reducing stress; getting more rest, sleep, or better nutrition; or hydrating properly.

Chronic fatigue lasts longer -- for more than a few months -- and it's more likely to be associated with an underlying medical condition and involves more than just fatigue. You can have chronic fatigue without having chronic fatigue syndrome. CFS is extreme, long-term fatigue that is associated with other multiple symptoms. Also, in CFS, other possible causes of fatigue have been ruled out.

What are some of the things we can do to help boost our energy?
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is around 300 milligrams for women and 350 milligrams for men. To make sure you're getting enough:
•Add a handful of almonds, hazelnuts or cashews to your daily diet.
•Increase your intake of whole grains, particularly bran cereal.
•Eat more fish, especially halibut.

Walk Around the Block. While it may seem as if moving about when you feel exhausted is the quickest route to feeling more exhausted, the opposite is true. Experts say that increasing physical activity -- particularly walking -- increases energy. Walking is accessible, easy to do, doesn't need training or equipment and you can do it anywhere. A brisk 10-minute walk not only increases energy, but the effects lasted up to two hours.

Take a Power Nap. Research has shown that both information overload and pushing our brains too hard can zap energy. But studies by the National Institutes of Mental Health found that a 60-minute "power nap" can not only reverse the mind-numbing effects of information overload, it may also help us to better retain what we have learned.

Don't Skip Breakfast -- or Any Other Meal. Studies show that folks who eat breakfast report being in a better mood, and have more energy throughout the day. Studies published in the journal Nutritional Health found that missing any meal during the day led to an overall greater feeling of fatigue by day's end.
Reduce Stress and Deal with Anger. One of the biggest energy zappers is stress. Stress is the result of anxiety, and anxiety uses up a whole lot of our energy. Like worry or fear, stress can leave you mentally and physically exhausted -- even if you've spent the day in bed. More commonly, low but chronic levels of stress erode energy levels, so over time you find yourself doing less and feeling it more.

If you want more information on how Holtorf Medical Group can help you with fatigue-related conditions please visit HoltorfMed.com or call (801)821-5384 to talk to a patient representative.

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