Help for Diabetes Fatigue

Diabetes fatigue can stop you in your tracks. The good news: You can get back your get-up-and-go today.

Jeff Meyers
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These days, Mary L. wakes up refreshed. But a few years ago, she began feeling constantly tired, regardless of how much she rested. “I could fall asleep with kids screaming in the background,” recalls the 62-year-old grandmother, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 25 years ago.

Mary was battling diabetes fatigue, a condition most people with the disease face at some point. What causes the exhaustion and brain fog varies, says Tami Ross, RD, LD, CDE, president-elect of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. “People describe the fatigue as wading through molasses—they are so tired they don’t want to do anything. The trick is to find out what’s slowing you down and take steps to get energized again.”

Energy sapper: out-of-control blood sugar
Whether your blood sugar is too high or low, sluggishness and lethargy can result.

Energy booster:
start fresh
If you’ve had diabetes for a while, you might have let your good habits lapse. To renew your commitment to your diabetes-management plan, pretend you’ve just been diagnosed: See your diabetes educator to review the basics and seek out the latest findings. It worked for Mary: “Acting like I was a novice made me feel enthusiastic and encouraged about taking control again.”

Energy sapper: stress
A little bit of stress can help you spring into action, but too much can drag you down by spiking your blood sugar levels and making your heart work harder.

Energy booster:
talk slowly
When you feel your tension rise, make a conscious effort to speak more slowly than usual. It sends a message to your brain to calm down and lets others know that you are in control of the situation. It also buys you time to focus your thoughts.

Energy sapper: medications
Some medications taken for diabetes, blood pressure, depression and pain can cause or worsen fatigue.

Energy booster:
talk it out 
At your next medical visit, say, “I’ve been feeling sluggish and just want to make sure the medicines I take are not the reason.” Your healthcare provider may modify your doses or try alternatives. And he or she may want to rule out other medical conditions, including anemia and hypothyroidism, which can cause fatigue.

Energy sapper: sitting around
The more you sit, the less blood sugar your cells use and the more that remains in your system, draining your pep. Your circulation and metabolism also slow.

Energy booster:
getting NEAT
That stands for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”—i.e., the calories you burn through activities that aren’t exercise. Things like folding laundry, standing up and even fidgeting count! In a study of non-exercisers, those who spent 150 minutes a day just moving around were leaner than their more sedentary counterparts. 


April 2013