Why am I so tired? Experts explain common causes of women`s fatigue
Women today are vulnerable to various health concerns, and yet we know many, including our mothers, sisters, wives, or friends, who conveniently choose to neglect their health. A common complaint we see women face is feeling lethargic or exhausted most of the time. “Many women think it is normal to feel tired as it is a natural occurrence when pursuing a career, striking a balance between personal life and a successful career, managing domestic chores, and maintaining a demanding social life. However, this is not the case,” says Dr. Asha Dalal, Director, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Well Women Center, Sir H N Reliance Hospital and Research Center.
Several underlying health concerns can be linked to fatigue in women. They include iron deficiency anaemia, thyroid or hypothyroid, sleep apnea, chronic fatigue, vitamin deficiency, hormonal imbalances, and obesity, among many others.
Another expert, Dr Surabhi Siddhartha, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Kharghar, says women must take care of their health to avoid severe health concerns in the future. Since women go through major body changes, they tend to have more health concerns than men. While they have to take care of their reproductive and sexual health, they also need to be careful of other non-reproductive health concerns like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and other mental illnesses.
A sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, genetic conditions, and stress are common factors that lead to these health concerns among women. Dalal suggests some basic tips women can follow to stay fit and eat healthy:
Exercising daily is a must. Even if you feel tired, push yourself to begin. Once you do it every day, it gets easier
Limit your caffeine intake
Limit alcohol consumption
Get a sufficient amount of sleep
Reduce all kinds of stress by practicing yoga and meditation
Drink plenty of water
Reduce your workload and ensure you take breaks
Consume foods rich in iron, like green leafy vegetables, meat, beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, and nuts
Eat fruits regularly, as they provide the body with the required nutrients and help maintain energy levels
Add a good amount of protein to your diet
Make sure you are consuming foods rich in vitamins
Avoid eating processed foods, refined sugars, and fried foods, as they cause low-grade inflammation in the gut and can lead to anxiety, fatigue, and low energy
Besides these basic healthcare practices, Siddhartha says, women must also take critical steps towards prevention, early identification, focused therapy, and effective treatment to lead a fit and healthy life in the present as well as the future. She says, “Women’s rapid body changes make them more vulnerable to certain health issues. Moreover, hormonal and social factors fluctuate with age, which might increase the chances of developing various diseases.” Frequent health check-ups are the right way to go about it.
Below, she lists seven crucial health tests every woman should opt for:
Breast cancer screening
Breast cancer screening comprises clinical examinations and screening mammography. If you are between the ages of 18 and 39, your doctor may do a clinical breast examination. A self-breast examination is essential for all women of all ages. If you have a family history of breast cancer, screening is even more critical. Your doctor may recommend genetic counselling or BRCA testing if you are at high risk.
Cervical cancer screening
Cervical cancer screening involves pap smears and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing. A doctor can do a pap smear to check the cells of your cervix and determine your risk of cervical cancer, which is highly curable if caught early.
Thyroid function examinations
The thyroid gland generates two primary hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), both of which aid in metabolic regulation. A normal total T4 level in adults is between 5.0 and 12.0 g/dL, while a normal total T3 level in adults is between 80 and 220 ng/dL.
Vitamin insufficiency tests
According to several studies, Indian women are more likely to be vitamin D and B12 deficient. Vitamin levels are critical for maintaining good health. Research suggests that a lack of Vitamin B12 in pregnant or wanting to become pregnant women might have major effects.
Blood pressure measurement
Many hormonal and lifestyle variables in women, such as menopause, pregnancy problems, and stress, can induce fluctuations in blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease. Those with normal blood pressure should get a BP examination at least twice a year, beginning at the age of 20. If your systolic blood pressure is between 120 and 139 mm Hg, or your diastolic blood pressure is between 80 and 89 mm Hg, you should have it tested once a year.
Doctors normally recommend that women receive a blood glucose test every three years starting at the age of 45 to screen for diabetes or pre-diabetes, or if their blood pressure is above 135/80 or they have high cholesterol levels. Additional risk factors include a family history of diabetes, physical inactivity, and a BMI of more than 25.
Panel lipid test
A lipid panel is essential because it checks your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and serves as a tool for determining your risk of heart disease or stroke. These tests are particularly crucial because elevated cholesterol levels do not cause any noticeable symptoms. Starting at the age of 20, you should check your cholesterol at least once every five years.
These screening tests help to discover possible issues while minimising unclear, ambiguous, or confusing outcomes. Although they are not always 100 per cent accurate, it is often more helpful to have them at times suggested by your healthcare professional instead of not having them at all.
Before taking these tests, it is best to consult your family doctor, as they have a thorough grasp of your medical history. This allows your doctor to make a more accurate diagnosis and to closely monitor you for any changes or red flags in your health checks.
Women often fear the results and avoid testing altogether. Siddharta says, “Going for a health screening might be a scary experience for many people. The anxiety of getting a physical examination and screening tests at a clinic may originate from a worry of learning they have an illness. It is a type of denial in which people persuade themselves that they are okay while secretly fretting that they are not. They avoid going to a health screening because they are afraid of finding out they are suffering from a deadly disease and feel guilty for not taking better care of their bodies.”
However, it is necessary to take a step forward and get the necessary tests done for early identification, prevention, and better treatment results. Those who are aware of an illness and its symptoms are more inclined to take preventative measures. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, and cardiovascular disease are among the most prevalent health challenges that women face. In such times, being aware of the various health concerns and remaining healthy should be a top priority for all women.