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Women's Health

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The Causes of Women's Fatigue

Why are you so tired? We ask leading health experts what makes women so exhausted.

Vitamin D Deficiency

"There's been an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency over the last few decades because we've been avoiding the sun," Volgman says. Other reasons include having a milk allergy, following a strict vegetarian meal plan, and having darker skin (the pigment melanin reduces the skin's ability to make vitamin D from sunlight). For some people, their digestive tract cannot absorb vitamin D well. For others, the kidneys have trouble converting the nutrient to its active form. And being overweight makes vitamin D less available for use in the body. 

Whatever the reason, too little of this essential vitamin can sap your bone strength, and some research links a deficiency of vitamin D to chronic fatigue syndrome.

What to do: A blood test can determine whether you're getting enough of your daily D. If not, a supplement can get you to the amount you need each day. The Institute of Medicine, which published new guidelines in 2010, recommends that most adults get 600 international units a day. For people 71 and older, the recommended amount climbs to 800 IU. At these amounts, you're getting enough D to benefit your bones without overdoing it and causing kidney problems or other side effects.

Iron Deficiency (Anemia)

When your blood can't carry enough oxygen to your body, you're bound to feel sluggish. "Anemia is more of a symptom than a disease," Fryhofer says. It could be a sign that you're losing too much iron in your blood during your period, or you may be deficient in other vitamins and minerals.

What to do: See your doctor for a blood test to find out whether you've got an iron deficiency or other medical problem that's affecting your red blood cell count. The solution could be as easy as taking an iron or B vitamin supplement.

Sleep Apnea

Your husband jokes that you sound like a buzz saw when you sleep, but snoring is no laughing matter. It could be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that halts your breathing over and over again throughout the night. Every time your breathing stops, your brain jolts you awake to restart it.

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