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How Hidden Health Concerns Wear You Out

● You've got sinus problems.
Patients who report unexplained chronic fatigue are nine times more likely to have sinusitis symptoms (such as headaches, sinus pressure, and chronic nasal congestion) than those who feel rested and well, according to a Georgetown University Medical Center study. "Most of the patients I diagnose with sinusitis are women in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s - and they're the most likely to brush off their symptoms as run-of-the-mill exhaustion," says study author Alexander Chester, M.D. Women are particularly susceptible during pregnancy, when shifts in hormone levels can cause nasal membranes to swell. Your doctor can generally diagnose sinusitis by taking a careful history of your symptoms. Treatment may involve nasal steroid sprays to reduce inflammation, decongestants, and antihistamines to treat underlying allergies.

●Your guy snores.
Having a partner who saws wood can cost you an hour of sleep a night, according to one Mayo Clinic study. Next time his snorting and snuffling jerks you out of slumber, nudge him to roll over on his side, suggests Charles Kimmelman, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Cornell University's Weill Medical College in New York City. One reason: Back-sleeping can cause the uvula (the small mass of tissue that hangs at the back of the throat) to fall back and block the airway. A saline or prescription nasal spray may also help relieve any congestion. If these measures don't work, he may have sleep apnea, a sleep breathing disorder that causes snoring and pauses in breathing. Diagnosis sometimes involves spending the night at a sleep center so machines can monitor his breathing; wearing a special mask over his nose while he sleeps may help open his breathing passages.

● You've got undiagnosed heart disease.
About 70 percent of women who have had heart attacks experienced fatigue for about a month beforehand, according to one University of Arkansas study. You're not too young for this killer, either: "I've seen plenty of women in their 30s and 40s who have had heart attacks, many of whom told me they couldn't even walk up steps without feeling exhausted, but figured they were just getting old," explains study author Jean C. McSweeney, Ph.D. Other warning signs? Sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, indigestion, and anxiety. "If you have any of these symptoms, especially if you have known risk factors for heart disease, see your doctor," says McSweeney.

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