Tiredness and cardiomyopathy
Cardiomyopathy nurse specialist Simon Waller advises on dealing with tiredness and fatigue
Tiredness is something that everyone experiences in their lives, and is often the result of every day factors such as stress or having a hectic lifestyle. However, chronic tiredness is recognised as something that can impact on our ability to complete every day tasks and can affect quality of life. Tiredness and fatigue can have an underlying cause and individuals with cardiomyopathy may experience both. The extent to which people feel tired will vary from one person to another, and there may be many physical and emotional reasons why people experience it. Some of these reasons are listed below:
- If your heart is not functioning well as a pump, then it can affect the blood supply to your muscles. This can lead to feelings of undue tiredness or fatigue, especially after exertion
- Medication side effects. Certain medications, such as beta blockers and other treatments for blood pressure, tranquillisers and anti-histamines, may cause tiredness. Sleeping tablets can also leave you feeling â€śhungoverâ€ť the next day.
- Underactive thyroid. This slows down your bodyâ€™s metabolism, leading to symptoms such as tiredness and putting on weight.
- Anaemia, an iron deficiency in the blood that leads to organs and tissues getting reduced levels of oxygen.
- Sleep apnoea, a disrupted breathing pattern while you sleep which affects the quality of your sleep.
- Emotional stress. People who live with a chronic condition such as cardiomyopathy can experience emotional stress when coming to terms with their diagnosis, living with the condition, and dealing with any changes to their condition.
- Feeling you have no control over your condition.
Factors such as these can be managed and result in a lessening of tiredness.
One of the ways some patients can take back some control and help ease their tiredness is to make some lifestyle changes.
There are positive steps you can take that may help you fight feelings of tiredness and improve your quality of life. They include:
- Giving up smoking
- Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake
- Ensuring you give yourself the opportunity to have a full nightâ€™s sleep
- Trying to relax. If you are anxious or under stress it is usual to feel tense. This increases your muscle tone and the amount of work your body is doing, so making you tired. Some people also find that using relaxation techniques can help.
- Taking some moderate exercise. This can improve your overall fitness and have psychological benefits. If you are unsure what exercise is safe for you, check with your cardiologist or specialist nurse
- Maintaining your ideal weight. Being overweight means that your body has to work harder when doing even normal day-to-day activities. If you are underweight you may feel generally weaker, and therefore more susceptible to tiredness.
- Scheduling important tasks to times of the day when you feel most energetic. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance to complete tasks or delegate unimportant tasks. If the tasks are strenuous, look at how they can be broken down into easier segments.
- Discussing how you are feeling with family members and friends can help to reduce tiredness caused by emotional stress. Talking to others can be a great source of comfort and support.
- If you remain unduly tired or notice that you are feeling increasingly tired, you should discuss this with your GP, cardiologist or specialist nurse. Any potential causes of your tiredness can then be investigated, identified and possibly treated.
- Explain your feelings of tiredness to your medical team in as much detail as possible. This should include:
- How often you feel tired
- If you feel you are getting more tired
- If you have always felt tired or if you have recently started to feel tired
- Whether there are any specific activities in your life that make your tiredness worse
This information will help your cardiologist or GP to diagnose the underlying cause of your tiredness.
People with cardiomyopathy may experience fatigue or tiredness following exercise. If so an exercise test may be recommended to investigate and measure your exercise capacity. This may help to determine a suitable course of action to help improve how you are feeling.
The Cardiomyopathy Association's Registered Charity Number is 803262.
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