Everyone has phases of low energy when we just want to veg out on the couch. But prolonged mental and physical fatigue and chronic low energy can be a sign of serious health problems. Men have a unique set of reasons why they may experience fatigue for more than a few weeks at a time.
Men gradually produce less testosterone as they age. Testosterone works hard in the body, maintaining everything from bone density to muscle mass to sex drive and beyond. A significant drop in testosterone levels can result in a reduced sex drive, increased body fat, decreased motivation, and sleep problems like insomnia. These symptoms can add up to chronic low energy and mental and physical fatigue.
Therapy is now available to supplement testosterone. Blood tests are necessary to see if you suffer from low testosterone. A discussion with your doctor is important for understanding the causes of low testosterone-related symptoms, as well as the appropriate treatments.
Hypothyroidism, or low levels of thyroid hormone, can also wreak havoc on your energy levels. This condition may be due to an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your thyroid. While it’s more common in women, it can occur in men and become severe if early symptoms are ignored.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- sensitivity to cold
- weight gain
- muscle aches
- dry skin
- thinning hair
Interestingly, low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to low levels of testosterone, linking the two problems and the possibility for experiencing fatigue. Treating low thyroid hormone may improve fatigue as well as other symptoms. Treatment may also help prevent complications like goiter, heart disease, and neuropathy.
Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, can also cause fatigue due to a racing heart and an overtaxed system.
Your fatigue may be due to a lack of sleep or poor sleep quality. You may feel tired if you don’t have good sleep habits, work at night and sleep during the day, or simply skip sleep altogether to get more done.
However, you may suffer from a sleep disorder that prevents quality sleep even if you allow enough time for it. Sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea can rob you of quality sleep by constantly disrupting your breath. Restless leg syndrome is another disorder that can negatively affect sleep.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that six million men have depression each year. Depression is a psychological condition that can affect anyone. Symptoms of depression include:
- feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
- loss of interest in the world
- difficulty concentrating
- trouble sleeping
- decreased energy
- feeling “slowed down”
Depression is a treatable condition. Counseling and medication are widely available and effective. It’s dangerous to ignore symptoms of depression. Severe untreated depression can potentially result in self-harm or even suicide.
Iron-deficiency anemia and other forms of anemia are usually more common in women than men. However, these are a cause of chronic low energy and fatigue. Low iron levels in men can result from a vegetarian diet or frequent blood donation. Other forms of anemia may trigger vitamin deficiencies such as low levels of B12.
Iron-deficiency anemia symptoms include extreme fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, and tingling in the hands and feet. Complications can include irregular heartbeat and increased susceptibility to infections.
Fatigue can be an important symptom of deeper health issues. Conditions that can cause fatigue include:
- liver failure
- kidney failure
- heart disease
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- chronic fatigue syndrome
Medications can also cause fatigue, including certain pain medications, heart medications, blood pressure drugs, and some types of antidepressants. Fatigue can also result from excessive caffeine consumption, alcohol abuse, and the use of antihistamines and cough medications.
Fatigue may result from poor diet and a lack of exercise. Exercise might be the last thing you want to do with low energy. But getting the blood pumping with just a 30-minute walk can put a spring in your step. Regular exercise can decrease fatigue and improve the quality of your sleep.
Diet is a big factor in fighting fatigue. Make sure to eat breakfast. A diet of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, lean protein, and plenty of water can give you much more energy. Fried food, high-fat foods, and highly processed foods like candy, chips, and soda should be avoided. These foods can drain energy levels and give you sugar highs and lows that result in fatigue.
Everyone deals with occasional fatigue and low energy. In most cases, this isn’t a cause for concern. But if your energy level doesn’t improve with diet, exercise, or better sleep habits, or if it worsens, see your doctor to rule out a more serious health problem.