by Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters
For my whole life BHA (Before Heart Attack), I can hardly remember feeling real fatigue. Oh, sure, I’d feel sore working long hot days on our fruit farm as a teenager. Or sleepy after pulling those all-nighters in college. Or out-of-my-mind exhausted coping with a teething baby and a sleepless toddler. Or tired at the end of a stressful day juggling deadlines in my public relations career. Or maybe even pleasantly pooped after my running group finished a long road race. But generally speaking, on a day-to-day basis, never ever the kind of severe fatigue I experienced AHA.
I’ve always been one of those disgustingly perky early risers who leaped cheerfully out of bed the minute one droopy eyelid cracked open to discover the clock showed anything past 4:30 a.m. Once I finished leaping, I’d hit the coffeepot and then the shower, in that order. Then away I’d go, tap dancing 90 mph to meet the day ahead, rarely slowing down until I hit the pillow much, much later that night.
But after I was discharged from hospital following my heart attack, I was gobsmacked to suddenly experience daily bouts of extreme bone-crushing fatigue that I could never have even imagined existed before.
I remember, for example, going for a walk one day with my son, Ben, shortly after coming home from hospital. My post-op instructions from the CCU had been to walk outdoors one block a day for the first week, two blocks a day the second week, etc. Ben and I had barely made it to the stop sign at the end of our block when I had to grab his arm to lean on for support all the way home. I couldn’t believe it! I felt like a frail old lady, barely able to shuffle one foot in front of the other. And when we finally returned home (slowest pace in recorded history), I could hardly make it to the couch to recover from the exertion of this simple little walk.
What was happening to me?!?
It’s hard to describe this kind of relentless fatigue to those who have never experienced it, or to explain fatigue that is not relieved by just resting. And nobody had warned me in hospital that this relatively common reality during cardiac recovery was heading my way. I could find only a handful of research studies confirming what I was experiencing.
A 2008 Swedish study out of the University of Gothenburg, for example, found that about half of all patients who survive a myocardial infarction (heart attack) are still experiencing “onerous fatigue” four months after the infarction.(1)
Dr. Pia Alsén, author of this study, observed:
“Many people experienced the fatigue as new and different, not related to physical effort or a lack of rest; it occurred unpredictably and could not be attributed to any definite cause.”
The elusive cause of the fatigue might also lie in the damage done by the heart attack itself. When heart muscle is damaged from being deprived of oxygenated blood flow during a heart attack, scar tissue is formed on the damaged heart muscle, decreasing the pumping efficiency in the affected area. The resulting reduction of blood flow can produce fatigue, depending on the size and location of the scar tissue.
If you’re a heart patient diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse (MVP – one of the most common conditions that affect our heart valves), your mitral valve is enlarged and unable to close correctly, preventing blood from flowing normally throughout your body. When your organs don’t get an adequate supply of oxygenated blood due to MVP, you can experience extreme fatigue.
Some medications that you are taking for heart disease can also cause fatigue. These include the beta blockers (atenolol, metoprolol, etc.) and statin drugs to treat high cholesterol (Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor).
And if you also have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea (a condition linked to heart disease), you can feel extreme fatigue during the day.
Weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath are to be expected in virtually all those recovering from a heart attack. Heart patients being discharged from hospital should be advised before going home that they may find just getting out of bed, taking a shower, and dressing can feel utterly exhausting, especially in the early days and weeks. See also: Why Taking a Shower Is So Exhausting for Heart Attack Survivors
It’s important to remember that symptoms like crushing fatigue can also be found in thyroid, depression and other medical conditions. It’s possible to have both heart disease and a second condition that is also contributing to your exhaustion.
Kelly Young, founder of Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, describes the kind of fatigue so many patients with chronic illness experience. She wrote:
“All of a sudden on Monday afternoon, it felt like it was 2 a.m. and I should be in bed. This is not the same as being tired. It’s more like being sick with the flu. I can remember the ‘good’ feeling of tired after working hard. This is not it – this is being sick. It can come at any time of day or night.
“This fatigue is not always the result of physical activity. It can suddenly develop for no apparent reason. This fatigue can last hours or days. It makes movement very difficult.
“It is not a psychosomatic condition.”
Here’s Kelly’s list of tips in managing severe fatigue common among those living with a chronic illness (shared by her blog readers at RA Warrior):
- Budget energy wisely. Guard energy.
- Have a regular schedule. Or go to bed early.
- Do gentle modified stretching or yoga.
- Nutritious balanced snacks such as protein bar and fruit.
- Get the best sleep at night possible.
- Get the best bed possible.
- Use heat to fight fatiguing pain.
- Eat on a regular schedule.
- Eat enough protein.
- Take small naps.
- Relaxation or meditation techniques.
- Alternate periods of activity and rest.
- Check for deficiencies such as iron or vitamin B-12.
- Treat the disease as aggressively as possible.
- While resting, plan for what you’ll do when you are more able.
- Fruit juice & sympathy.
- Check for side effects of medicines. Take them at the best time of day to avoid fatigue.
- Accept the reality that the list will not be accomplished today.
- When the body says “No more” – stop.
- Watch a movie.
- Take large naps.
- Delegate and oversee.
- Blue Kryptonite!
1. Alsen, P., Brink E. & Persson, L-O. (2008). Living with incomprehensible fatigue after recent myocardial infarction. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 64(5), 459-68.
NOTE FROM CAROLYN: I wrote much more about the surprising fatigue that’s so common among heart patients in my book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease”. You can ask for it at your local library or favourite bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press (use the JHUP code HTWN to save 30% off the list price).
Q: Have you had to deal with severe fatigue since your heart disease diagnosis?
Why taking a shower is so exhausting after a heart attack
Exhaustion: the ‘leaky emotion’ of chronic illness
Depressed? Who, me? Myths and facts about depression and heart disease
202 thoughts on “25 tips to manage the crushing fatigue of heart disease”
Just had 2 Stents put in 4 weeks ago. Beginning to feel tired often. Nap often. Go to bed early. This is helpful information to me.
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Hello David – you are in VERY early days yet. Napping and going to bed early are wise things to do when you’re feeling this tired, both physically and emotionally. It will get better – but in the meantime, listen to your body. And tell your doctor about this so that all doctors will learn more about what it’s really like post-discharge. Best of luck to you…
Hello I am so glad I found this site. A little over a month ago I had two heart attacks and three stents put in. One blockage was the widowmaker 70% blockage, then the other two were 80% and 96%. I had been feeling pain for two weeks before I went to hospital. I thought I had a pinched nerve in my back that was causing the pain. When I did go to hospital, they said if I had not taken four baby aspirins and got to hospital, I probably would have died. Two weeks after all this I started Cardiac Rehab. The thing is I come home from it and within an hour I am taking a nap from being so tired. Also I find just doing simple things like dishes, vacuuming, washing clothes, sweeping or mopping is totally exhausting. I was expecting to be back to my old self by now. This fatigue is driving me crazy. My house is not as clean as it used to be, my dishes are not cleaned as often and so forth. I do have a very sweet and understanding husband. He helps me with all of this. What really upsets me is that I am only 55 yrs old. I just want to pop back and have things the way it used to be. I also have OCD, depression, anxiety and PTSD. I do take meds for all these things with all the Heart meds. Oh yeah I also have arthritis and have to take pain meds at times for that. My question is…. Is my house and stuff going to be back to normal again? I feel like my house is so dirty all the time and I feel like the worst wife ever. I cry to my husband and tell him I am sorry for being such a terrible wife. He says babe you are not. Go relax you are doing good. He is so supportive and understanding. I don’t know what I would do without him.
Hello Doris – I think it’s really important to cut yourself some slack, starting now. You are in very early days yet, just a month or so after your heart attack. You may have expected to feel back to normal by now, but that would have been an unrealistic expectation for many heart patients. As my friend Dr. Stephen Parker likes to say “Having a heart attack is a deeply wounding event, and it takes time to heal, both physically and emotionally.” It’s very common to feel extremely tired after cardiac rehab exercise classes – this kind of fatigue tends to improve a lot as your level of fitness improves, so hang in there. You are also dealing with a broad range of challenging health issues – no wonder you are feeling exhausted! Your house will get back to “normal” someday, but perhaps not to your OCD expectations, so that may require seeking help to manage those expectations. And ask that wonderful hubby of yours to get you a copy of the book called “Thriving With Heart Disease” by Dr. Wayne Sotile – I think it might really help you. Best of luck…
Carolyn, I had two stents put in mid-November due to a 95% blockage in my “widow-maker” artery, and a 75% blockage of another. I started cardiac rehab about 6 weeks ago, going 3x a week during my lunch break from work, and was doing well, had some fatigue but not this crushing type I’ve experienced the last 2 weeks. I also have a torn rotator-cuff (right shoulder) that causes shoulder pain, and in these last two weeks I have stopped doing any arm-type exercising at rehab. Yesterday after rehab the fatigue was so bad I could hardly sit up at my desk after returning to work, and my shoulder started hurting so bad. I got off work had my hubby rub my shoulder with pain cream, and went to bed putting a heating pad on my shoulder and slept 4 hours. I got up still feeling bad, the crushing fatigue. The pain in my shoulder is worse which usually improves some after a rub down and time on the heating pad. The rotator cuff area (front shoulder) had radiated to my far right chest. I finally had to take a pain pill and go back to bed. Now I’m worried that my stent(s) may be failing. Do you think I’m overreacting?
Hi Debbie – I don’t think you’re overreacting; I think you’re in pain! I’m not a physician so cannot comment on your specific symptoms, but I can say generally that living with the kind of pain, inflammation and spasm caused by a torn rotator cuff can be extremely exhausting at the best of times, whether or not you were participating in a cardiac rehab program. Consider making an appointment with a physiotherapist who is experienced in the treatment of rotator cuff injuries, and meanwhile keep avoiding all upper body exercises at cardiac rehab. Focus on lower body workout machines like the stationary bike rather than running on the treadmill. A trained physio may also recommend a shoulder brace, a simple, non-surgical way to stabilize and protect that shoulder joint. You didn’t say why you’re now thinking stent failure is the culprit, but remember that pain that can be massaged away or reduced with a heating pad would not likely be associated with the pain of a blocked coronary artery as happens in stent failure. Best of luck to you…
I had the widowmaker heart attack several weeks ago and I get very out of breath and just taking a shower makes me need to lay down and take a nap. I think my husband is getting angry because of the fatigue. Thank you for this post – it reassured me since the hospital did not tell me these things.
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Hello Dawn – I often wonder why heart patients are NOT routinely warned before hospital discharge about the very common crushing fatigue experience that we so often share in the early days and weeks, post-discharge. Had we been told this in advance, it might not be so shockingly traumatic when we experience what you and I both did once we’re back at home, yes, even just taking a shower. And yes it can be very tough for our family members to really ‘get’ it if they’ve never experienced this themselves. Good luck to you as you continue to recuperate….
I had a heart attack and stent 5 years ago. I get winded easily..sometimes more than others. I am now 66 and can no longer do lots of things I used to..and yes, tire easily.
Hi Wayne – it’s hard to pinpoint the reason for your ‘feeling winded’ five years post-heart attack. Sometimes it’s a vicious circle: avoiding exercise for example, because it’s tiring, so being out of shape means you get more winded with exertion, and on and on it goes. Sometimes, sleep issues/smoking are the culprits. Talk to your doctor about possible other contributing factors.
A little over a month ago I had two heart attacks and three stents put in. I have been in cardiac rehab doing exercise. However I still feel like I can’t do anything any more. My house looks terrible. I find that any cleaning is almost too hard. This is crazy and I totally know how you feel. My husband is very understanding and reassuring to me always.
In December of 2006 I had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) heart attack in my LAD artery. I was told that it should have killed me instantly. It started at about 5:30 pm and lasted until around 8:00am the next day, when the took me into open heart surgery and did a triple bypass. I was in the CCU for a month and then moved to the cardiac rehab unit. That was 10 years ago and the damage to my heart was severe. Since then my life has changed dramatically. I am now unable to do and enjoy many things I was more then capable of doing, but the hardest thing to deal with is the extreme fatigue. Sometimes it just comes on all of a sudden.
I have learned that having a SCAD heart attack is different from a typical heart attack and that it is very rare and most do not survive it. So I’ve been very blessed and have had awesome Drs the first team at Saint Vincent’s in Billings M, Cleveland Clinic and at the Mayo Clinic where Dr Sharonne Hayes is doing a study on SCAD heart attacks.
I’ve learned a lot but I can’t seem to get my husband to understand the extreme fatigue; he thinks the more I get up and move around and do things I’ll feel better, but sometimes the more I do the worse it gets and stress is a huge danger for me because it was the extreme stress I was under that caused the SCAD.
I lost 3 very close family members in the same week, my brother who we did not even know he was ill with AML leukemia and died 9 days after it was diagnosed; the very next day my favorite auntie passed away and then two days later my 1st husband died from brain cancer. I was holding him while he was dying when my LAD dissected.
So it was the overwhelming stress that caused it. It has been a real battle just getting the cardiologists to understand that I cannot be treated like a typical heart attack patient. It has taken several years to get just a few to listen but now I need my husband to really listen not just to me but to what the Drs have told him as well. Any suggestions?
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Hi Tannis – you have really been through the wringer and back again. SCAD is indeed misunderstood by many (I remember being told that many physicians will go through their entire careers without ever seeing a living SCAD patient, although Dr. Hayes at Mayo now says that, while it used to be considered “rare”, she now believes that this condition is just “rarely correctly diagnosed”). So glad you have been treated and seen by the best in the cardiac world so far!
Re this fatigue you’re suffering from: it can be almost impossible (especially for people who have never suffered anything like the kind of crushing fatigue we’re discussing here) for healthy people to really ‘get’ what we’re talking about. It’s kind of like talking about depressed people, and insisting that if only depressed folks would just pull up their socks and quit moping around, they’d feel better – without realizing how hard it can be to pull up those socks.
I can tall you one interesting thing I’ve personally learned about my own heart-related fatigue. When I’m engaged in something I really love doing (like spending time with my darling grandbaby, for example) I actually can forget all about my fatigue for a short but crucially important time! I encourage you to start making a list of all the small things you most love doing (e.g. being out in nature, or with a favourite book or ? ? ? ) and build those small activities into every single day. Even a short period of time doing what you love can help.
Our family members also want and need us to be “fine” (so that they can stop worrying and get on with this shared life that they were hoping for). Get your hands on two books: one by Dr. Wayne Sotile called “Heart Illness and Intimacy“ and one by Rachel Freed called “Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient” – I think you and your hubby can both relate to them.
I also hope that you are seeing a professional therapist to help you gain perspective and to manage stress (both this current stress around the fatigue, plus the grief of three serious losses and any unresolved issues surrounding those catastrophic events of 2006). If you’re not, please make an appointment. Best of luck to you…
10 years, especially under those circumstances, is not a long time. I suppose my question is this: do you want to keep this husband? The reason I pose that so bluntly is this: having to think about, respond to, work around other people who do not accept where “you’re at,” regardless of health, is exhausting. And, here we have the horrorday season upon us. No one is at fault when things cannot be understood. It simple “is.”
I’m going through the biggest transitional period in my lifetime. My health is ?, but surely some of the gross fatigue I feel is due to that. Oh and the heart disease. (My doctors now practice “shunning,” as a healing technique – seriously). But still. Especially with the horrorday season, and this very seriously bad political climate, (and I don’t even have TV), I could easily dig myself into a big bad hole.
I don’t want to go on about it. I just wonder if it might be better if you and your husband at least didn’t live in the same place. Down the block from each other, or across town, for example, if you can manage it. Personally, I am only just now having various awareness(es) of things I no longer have to think about – not even consider. Even while grocery shopping. And, especially, how I fit into the new scheme of things. I’m not good at it, but – and I thank you for reminded me of this because of your comment – I am practicing.
It will take practice. Years and years and years… and years of the other, don’t vanish. So. Practicing every day, is something I can only, as yet do, when I am by myself, or with strangers. (Sorry. I brought it back to me again – self-centered woman that I am now). Okay then. Just some things to consider.
PS I could use some help in all my stuff, but I would need to win the lottery to be able to find – if one existed – a genuine professional, who didn’t think I just needed to put on a happy face. Depression can get too close, when I forget that there is nothing for me to be concerned about in all this. Nothing. And I want joy. (Although when I was somewhat dancing in a parking lot today, I frightened two separate women).
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Thanks for this, Jane. I love the image of you “somewhat dancing”…. I do that regularly with my grandbaby (who is charmingly unconcerned about frightening strangers – dancing in public is just what makes her feel good!)
I’m 64-years old and had been very active – I’d been remodeling our house for the last three years, doing a lot of heavy work (drywall, concrete, etc.). About a month ago I went to the local Home Depot and grabbed a couple of bags of wood pellets for our pellet stove (40 pounds each – not much, for me). When I put them in the car, my heart had a weird, fluttering feeling. I figured I was just tired. But it didn’t stop. Long story short – about 9 days later I finally went to the hospital. I’d had a very mild heart attack, according to the hospital – minor damage to my right ventricle and arteries in good condition. My own doctor called it a “sub-clinical” heart attack, it was so minor. Got out of the hospital in 3 days, about two weeks ago. Now, when I get tired – which is often – I feel like I am gonna die…..I mean, it’s indescribable. It’s 3 AM and I am awake because me and the wife were watching some TV and, at about 9 PM, I told her I felt like I was gonna croak if I didn’t sleep. Laid down on the couch and woke up 6 hours later. Is this normal?
Hello Guy – you have just explained brilliantly why there is, in my opinion, no such thing as a “small” heart attack (unless you’re a doctor who’s never actually had one). I’m not a physician, but I can tell you generally that you are still in very early days yet. As I quoted Kelly Young in this article, “This is not the same as being tired.” It’s way beyond that. And I now believe that this kind of crushing fatigue is even more distressing for formerly-active people. It’s not “normal”, but for now it is “normal” for you. Try not to fight it, or worry yourself sick – that will just make you feel worse. Typically, this won’t last. Nap whenever and however long you need to for the time being, and get out and walk every day in the fresh air as much as you can. Eventually, your body WILL adjust. Do mention this fatigue to your doctor (it helps to educate physicians that this is a real ‘thing’ that’s often underappreciated by the medical profession) and request a medication review to check for drug side effects. Best of luck to you…
I wish I could make my significant other understand this debilitating exhaustion. I get tired from just running errands and he does not understand. He’s wonderful but he does not understand this fatigue.
Londa, show him this article. It’s tough to really understand fatigue like this unless a person has actually experienced it. It’s what’s called “healthy privilege.” Best of luck….
5 days post massive MI. I’m soo tired and fatigued and also saying so. Hope this passes and gets better. I’m 58 and feel 90.
Hello Lisa – you are in very early days yet! As my friend Dr. Stephen Parker (cardiac psychologist and a heart attack patient himself) says: “A heart attack is a deeply wounding event, and it is a wound that takes a long time to recover from.” And he means recovering physically and emotionally and spiritually and in every possible way! See if you can get a copy of the book called “Thriving With Heart Disease” by Dr. Wayne Sotile – I found it so valuable in the early days and weeks following my own heart attack. Meanwhile, you can read some of his essays here.
Hang in there but be patient: it does get better…. Honest!
Thank you so much for your inspiring words, they’ve been taken to heart. I will read the book as well.
Thank you so much for this article and the list of suggestions. Just what I needed, especially the blue kryptonite recommendation!
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Let me know if you track down a source for that blue kryptonite, Mij!
I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure after a week in the hospital w/ asthma flare-up, bronchitis, severe shortness of breath, & fatigue. My heart is strong, no blockages, no heart attacks! At first I was on oxygen 24 hrs a day for 2 months. Then I got better, off the oxygen! Feeling great! Now all of a sudden, I’m short of breath again, extremely fatigued! I take Lisenopril 10 mg, Toprol 25 mg. I’m so exhausted I can’t do anything. What can I do to get my strength back? I had a flare-up of arthritis, the Dr. put me back on prednisone 10 mg. That’s when I got worse again, only took it 5 days when the trouble started gradually. Fluid build up in my stomach area, I take demadex but it doesn’t seam to help much, fluid comes right back!
Jeanette, that’s quite a roller coaster ride you’ve been on! I’d love to see you sit down with your cardiologist for a medication review as soon as possible, and also to review your heart failure diagnosis with you so you are all on the same page. I’m not a physician so cannot comment on your specific symptoms, except to say generally that a person diagnosed with heart failure is rarely able to say “my heart is strong” just because there are no blockages in coronary arteries. By definition, heart failure means your heart is having trouble pumping blood as effectively as it should (hence the classic fatigue, shortness of breath and fluid build-up symptoms). I hope that your cardiologist will have some good suggestions about tweaking meds, etc. to make your life more comfortable. Meanwhile, here are some really useful videos from a British non-profit called Pumping Marvellous you might like. Best of luck to you…
My 64 year old husband had a heart attack Memorial Day weekend. We were grocery shopping and he said he was not feeling well. After a trip to our local hospital and 1 stent later for 100% blockage, life has been very different around our house. I have read that some of the meds he is taking can cause fatigue, but all he does anymore is sleep. He goes to his cardo rehab appointments and then comes home to take yet another nap. I’m so glad I found this website, I thought my husband was just on the wrong meds. I wish the hospital would have told us to expect this extreme fatigue. This is like having a new born baby, eat & sleep, repeat.
Dear Not Alone – In many ways, the situation you describe IS very much like having a newborn in the house. The person you knew is gone, replaced (temporarily) by this sleepy man. The good news is that, like newborns, we usually ‘grow out of’ this scenario as time goes on. Your hubby is barely four months on. More good news: he’s attending cardiac rehab! That’s fantastic! And it’s predictable that exertion can bring on a big wave of crushing fatigue right afterwards. But it’s very important that your husband’s doctor is aware of his fatigue. It could be aggravated by his meds, or could be linked to depression. Ask for a medication review. Hang in there…
I am a 46 year old man that had a widow maker heart attack and died! I am so glad I found this posting because I am always tired and I mean like oops got to go to sleep now…ridiculous. I could work 12 hours in 100 degree heat before and now, although thankful to be alive, suffer from severe fatigue. It has only been 5 weeks since the procedure but man I need to work and just not sure of my limitations. I am glad to hear there is light at the end of this tunnel. Thanks.
Chris, you are in very early days yet. Severe fatigue like you describe can feel surprising – especially since few people are warned about it before they leave hospital. Hang in there, one day at a time – things will improve, believe it or not, but it can take time. Meanwhile, be very good to yourself whenever you’re home. It may be necessary to lay low and focus on rest instead of thinking you can bounce right back to your formerly busy self. Best of luck to you…
Yes. Please do allow yourself time. Not weeks. Not even just a few months. Whatever time it takes. You are alive. I often consider attempting to learn Greek, rather than beat myself up about what I can and cannot do physically, but my eyes are bad – you get the gist.
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I Just slept like 18 hrs today and have slept increasingly more this past 2 weeks. I thought it was the weather but now I’m thinking it’s directly connected to my surgery. I wish someone had told me this prior to leaving hospital how crappy I’d feel for a while. It’s been 4 months today and I keep hoping I’ll return to some sort of normalcy.
Hi Jennifer – you could be affected by both (the hot weather AND your post-op situation). That sense of being exhausted even after an 18-hour sleep is overwhelming because it makes no sense to us. You WILL return to “normal” one day – you’re at that 4-month stage that the Swedish researchers studied; being this tired at this stage is not uncommon. It’s frustrating, but not uncommon. Meanwhile, talk to your physician about this so your symptoms will be part of your records.
Note from Carolyn: This comment has been removed because of its distinctly aromatic stench of utterly over-the-top quackery.
After years of having undiagnosed Graves disease, being told “you’re depressed, nothing else”, then finally a diagnosis from a young intern in an ER, I got Propylthiouracil and in only 2 days I felt reborn. I was sent for thyroid scan and then told I needed Radioactive Iodine or RISK A STROKE (my BP was always normal/low!
I’ve been experiencing what I can only call A SLOW INEXORABLE DEATH since, this was 10 yrs ago.
Now Graves Eye Disease…. no cure no treatment, and I’ve been unable to get out of bed except to go to the bathroom, pour food for my cat, or get some cereal which is all I can prepare, for the past 9 mos and I get chest pains THAT RADIATE TO MY SHOULDER AND JAW (DX so far) AND MY HEAD. When these pains arrive at my jaw and TOP of head, there’s a moment I’m SURE I’ll die. MY DR (did you know, if you are over 50 and living on poverty SSI alone, your PRIMARY DR IS A NURSE PRACTITIONER??) does nothing but check my T4 alone. MY last blood test was Oct 2015 and now I’m unable to move. I’m unable to do any more research for myself because I can’t retain much anymore AND whatever I find is ignored anyway.
I lived and worked and brought up my son in Italy from 1971 until 1992. MY Italian Dr warned me not to return, or, if I did, to return to HIM before allowing anymore damage by an American Doctor (there’d been a lot of UNneeded surgeries etc prior to that and in Italy I regained my health and good looks and happy personality).
I’m too sick and poor to return now and I honestly hope this ends soon. I fear nursing homes which are ALL hot beds of ELDERLY ABUSE, and the longer this goes on, the more painful and frightening it gets.
Now my hair is gone, along with my teeth. Just sitting up to write this, has me shaking slightly from the effort.
I feel for ALL women in this country who have reached this point. The total lack of good doctors, especially specialists of hormones and all glands, thyroid, adrenal and thalamus is deplorable. Perhaps if I had expensive insurance….. sorry, I’m beginning to whine now.
The worst thing taken after taking everything else, is my faith. Gone. Nobody can be stripped of SO MUCH and CARED FOR SO LITTLE, except, perhaps, in BOTSWANA? KABUL?
I just turned 69 and look 30 yrs … bad years… older. I’M SURE THERE IS SOME HEART OR VALVE PROBLEM, BUT I HONESTLY CANT EVEN TAKE A SHOWER NOW. This is what happens, you complain, insist, even change doctors .. until the time you’re so bad off, all you do is take your pain meds, your thyroid synthetic, and SLEEP.
OBAMACARE? I miss the health system of Europe!!!!!!
Mary, this is a nightmare story. I’m so sorry you are suffering in so many ways. I’m not a physician so of course can’t comment on any of your specific symptoms, except to say that it’s simply shocking that any person could be suffering like this in the world’s richest country. You mentioned your son – why isn’t he advocating for you? There is somebody out there who can assist you. Good luck to you in regaining peace and health.
My husband had a mild heart attack and 3 stents placed 6 weeks ago. It kills me to see him so fatigued and exhausted now. I know this is a site for women, but do men experience it also? We were always going places, exercising together and now he can barely walk up the steps without needing a break. I doubt it’s depression with him. He started cardiac rehab 2 weeks ago so hoping that helps some. Any advice for a worried wife?
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Hi Megan – YES, men certainly can experience the same kind of debilitating fatigue after a cardiac event that women do. It’s an equal-opportunity symptom! You and your hubby are in very early days still, and I too think that attending (and more important, completing) his full cardiac rehab program will make a big difference for both his physical and psychological health. Even though his progress might seem alarmingly different than you’re expecting, try not to rush him or make him feel pressured to do more than he feels comfortable with – he will gradually improve over time. My only other advice: I’d recommend you try to find a copy of the book Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient by R. Freed (I believe it’s out of print, but you can try tracking it down online or at a library or used book shop). Best of luck to both of you…
Five weeks ago today I had a mild heart attack. I’ve been going to cardiac rehab 3 days a week since Week Two, went back to work Week Three, eating right, losing weight and feeling great. Until Monday this week, when I felt so tired I could hardly stay awake at work, went to bed at 7 PM, slept twelve hours then stayed home from work Tuesday to sleep six more hours. What is going on with me? I feel so lazy especially after doing so well.
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Hello Jules – I feel tired just reading what you’ve managed to accomplish in just five weeks! No wonder you are feeling so exhausted – and no wonder you are feeling so shocked by this exhaustion after such a great start! Often, we go into autopilot mode immediately after a cardiac event, as you clearly did: follow doctor’s orders, go to rehab, lose weight, go back to “normal” as soon as possible. But sometimes we are so overwhelmed with what has happened that the actual reality hits like a delayed reaction (in your case, about a five-week delay).
There are many emotional and psychological aspects of any heart event that need healing as much as the physical results do. Speak to your doctor about this, and consider making an appointment to talk to a professional therapist/pastor/counselor about what you’re going through. I’ve written a lot about the psychosocial impact of heart disease here, here and here, for example.
Meanwhile, please be gentle with yourself – you are NOT being lazy, and you’re not alone.
I’m in early 50s, had a mild heart attack almost a year ago. I have a stent, on beta blocker, statin, blood thinner. Recently had a stress test and blood tests, all came back great. Asked cardiologist, why am I still extremely exhausted after a year? He told me to go off statin for two weeks to see if that helps. Did that, but felt the same, went back on it.
I want to sleep all day, weekend, I usually do.
I have to force myself to get up and work, I work from home. After I’m done, I take a nap.
It’s good to read I’m not the only one who is exhausted. I’m not depressed over the heart attack, in fact I felt I had another chance at life. But, my quality of life has never been so bad. It’s hard to explain to my family. They don’t get why I’m always tired. I’ve lost 30 pounds since the heart attack, eat a lot better. I don’t know if I should force myself to exercise. I was exercising, but I’m bruised all over from the blood thinners, and it hurts. I can go off blood thinners in July, looking forward to that. On top of this I’ve have compressed fractures in my upper back and osteoporosis, so I can only walk a short distance.
Thanks for reading.
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Thanks for sharing your story here. You are definitely not the only one to feel this tired. The good news is that passing the one-year milestone is often a turning point for many of us! The irony of exercise is that the less we do it, the less we feel like doing it. I’m not a physician so cannot advise you specifically, but if I were you I’d check with your family physician about your compressed fractures for a clearer discussion about your ability to exercise, and also about your bruises. Perhaps a referral to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist would also be useful as they are the real experts in functional mobility.
Your bruises are actually a good sign – they mean that your meds are working to keep clots from forming inside your stent! I recall feeling puzzled about two perfectly circular bruises below my belly button; I just couldn’t figure out what could have caused these identical symmetrical bruises until later that evening when my cat Lily jumped up onto my lap for her regular lap nap and did her ritual little ‘making biscuits’ kneading on my abdomen before curling up in a sleepy ball on my lap. Just her tiny cat paws could cause those dark bruises because of my anti-platelet meds!
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Thank you for the reply. I have no one to talk to who has been through this. It’s nice to hear from others and read their stories.
I did go to a physical therapist for my back, I chose water aerobics, hoping not to get more injured. I went 3 months and didn’t help. I’ve been researching online for exercises to do for people with back issues. I’m currently using a Tens unit, seems to help. With the weather getting hot now in AZ, planning on starting to swim. It’s giving me something to look forward to instead of sleeping all the time. Sleeping makes me feel like life is passing me by. There’s too much left that I’d like to do in my life.
My cats try to do the nesting on my tummy too, I let them for a minute then have to move them. My bruises are all over my legs, trying to figure out what I do while sleeping 🙂
You’re right, Betsmack – sleeping is a way to let life pass you by. Right now, it seems it’s hard to tell how much your fatigue is affected by your back issues, and how much by a heart condition. Good luck with your plans to go swimming! Remember that even if a particular form of exercise doesn’t seem to address your current fatigue, any form of exercise can improve your overall mood and quality of life.
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Thank you so much for writing this! I had a heart attack 12 days ago, luckily no damage to my heart, just had a stent placed. I’m exhausted all the time! My kids keep trying to tell me it’s depression but I’m not depressed! I’m very thankful to be alive! I just need to rest a lot, a nap in the afternoon and I go to bed by 9:00pm. When will this stop?!!
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Hello Joanne – you are still in very early days yet so it’s not surprising you feel exhausted all the time. Every person reacts/recuperates differently, of course, but you will likely begin to feel more like your previous perky self as time goes on. If you start feeling worse over time, see your physician. Crushing fatigue can also be a symptom of depression. Best of luck to you….
Thanks Carolyn! It’s so nice to hear this is normal. All the nurses at the hospital kept telling me I’d feel so much better after the stent was placed. No one said anything about being exhausted!
One of my pet peeves: very few heart patients before hospital discharge are warned to expect what all cardiac research shows is predictable! So instead, we often feel alarmed and frightened at home. Read this post for more info, too.
Wow, thank you for this article! I had my second heart attack 2 months ago and I’ve been sleeping ever since! It’s like when I was much younger and at the beginning of both of my pregnancies, all I wanted to do was sleep!
But I never had this after my first heart attack. However, after reading this it now makes sense, the first one was mild. This one was much worse! I don’t know how long this will last and I’m sure it will feel like eternity, but at least I won’t think I’ve turned into a frail, old lady who gets exhausted at the drop of a hat!
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Hello Tonda – your comparison with that first trimester fatigue of pregnancy sounds very accurate to me! You haven’t turned into a frail old lady, but it will take time to gradually build up stamina and regain your former level of energy. Best of luck to you…
Been 3 years since surgery for ascending aortic aneurysm and valve replacement, was done at Barnes Jewish. The fatigue did get better somewhat, but no way back to normal, then there’s DEPRESSION.
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You raise an interesting point, Doug. Depression is very common among heart patients, yet virtually none of us are warned before we leave hospital that it’s common and treatable. ANd that is an important gap in care because people living with depression are far less likely to exercise, take their meds, eat a healthy diet, or follow their doctor’s recommendations to help prevent another cardiac event. I’ve written lots about this preventable gap in our care (here and here for example).
Reblogged this on Heart Matters.