Sure, we all know what it feels like to be tired. But chronic fatigue refers to a lingering
tiredness that is constant and limiting.
According Harris H. McIlwain, MD, Tampa-based rheumatologist and author of
The Fibromyalgia Handbook, patients who complain of fatigue feel tired
even when they've had plenty of sleep and should feel rested.
By Janice Graham
As you hit one of those big birthdays, you probably worry more about new
wrinkles than about less visible body parts — like your heart. But recent
research has found that each decade of your life is a crossroads, with new
health concerns to worry about. What's more, you need to be aware of these
issues — because your doctor may not be. "Many physicians fail to recognize how
much a woman's risk factors for heart disease evolve over her lifetime," says
While some patients admit to feeling sleepy, with fatigue there's usually
there's a feeling of exhaustion without feeling drowsy says McIlwain, an
adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. "Some patients with
fatigue compare it to having the flu or to the feeling after working very long
hours and missing a lot of sleep."
These patients say they are fatigued on arising in the morning, fatigued
after mild activity such as grocery shopping, too fatigued to function
adequately at work or do household chores, and too fatigued to exercise or have sex, McIlwain
says. "In most cases, there's a reason for the fatigue, whether poor time
management, too much caffeine, anemia, fibromyalgia, depression, or even undiagnosed
Before you blame your age or your "superwoman" lifestyle on your
feelings of fatigue, learn what might be at the root of your unexplained
tiredness and what some top experts recommend to resolve your chronic
Chronic Fatigue Cause No. 1: Time-Stacking
For many women who suffer from fatigue, the diagnosis is
"time-stacking" or multitasking to the max and not getting enough
"If you're juggling kids, careers, and a long list of commitments and
only getting five or six hours a night, it will catch up with you, says
But what if you're a healthy woman, getting eight hours of sleep nightly,
and still feel fatigue? McIlwain recommends a checkup to see if there are any
health problems to blame for the fatigue.
If you feel fatigued for longer than a week or two and you're getting plenty
of sleep and you don't have a cold or other viral infection, McIlwain says to
call your doctor. "Most of the time fatigue has a fairly straightforward
explanation, and sometimes medical treatment is necessary."
Fatigue can also be the sign of a serious illness, which is why your doctor
may be able to quickly diagnose the problem.
Chronic Fatigue Cause No. 2: Caffeine Overload
Many of us grab an espresso, latte, or cola for a quick burst of energy, but
for some women, caffeine has the opposite effect.
In an article published in the journal US Pharmacist, W. Stephen
Pray, PhD, RPh, reports that caffeine is a stimulant, but if you take too much,
the tables can turn.
"In some patients, continued abuse results in fatigue," says Pray.
And if you think this means you simply require more caffeine to get the kick,
this isn't the case. "Any attempts to solve the problem by increasing
caffeine intake causes the fatigue to worsen," he says.
The solution to caffeine overload? Eliminate as much caffeine from your diet as possible. This means not
only cutting out coffee. Chocolate, tea, soda, and even some over-the-counter
and prescription medications also contain caffeine and could be causing