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 and potential side effects.
Hypothyroidism, or low levels of thyroid hormone, can 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, high blood pressure, sleep troubles, 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 breathing. 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 and physiological 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”
- changes in weight
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 is usually more common in women than men. However, all types of anemia can be a cause of chronic low energy and fatigue. Low iron levels in men can result from a poorly balanced vegetarian diet, frequent blood donation, or internal bleeding from, for example, the stomach or intestinal tract. Other forms of anemia can be caused by vitamin deficiencies such as low levels of vitamin B-12 or folate.
Depending on the cause, anemia symptoms can include:
- extreme fatigue
- pale skin
- shortness of breath
- tingling in the hands and feet
Other complications can include irregular heartbeat and a decreased ability to exercise.
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, drug 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, at least 5 times a week, 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. Eating portion-controlled meals and healthful snacks throughout the day can be beneficial in fueling your system. 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 limited. 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.