Sound the Alarm
When the body talks, it’s important to listen. Here are 4 symptoms never to ignore.
Are funny noises coming from the car? Call the mechanic. Leaky faucet? Grab the toolbox. It’s easy to know when something at home needs fixing. But the human body gives more subtle signs that can oftentimes be ignored. These signals can be the result of simple ailments like indigestion or dehydration, but can also signify a body’s serious call for help. Here’s a list of symptoms that may demand a call to the doctor or – worst-case scenario – a visit to the emergency room.
1. Chest Pain
“Small passing chest pain is one thing, but if it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest, that’s cause for an alarm,” says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, cardiologist and medical director of the Women’s Heart Program at New York University. Goldberg says this symptom can be indicative of a serious health concern like a heart attack or pulmonary embolism, a blockage of the lung’s main artery. If the pain is accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating or arm pain, it is best to call 911 immediately because these symptoms can mean an individual is having a heart attack, Goldberg says.
2. Shortness of Breath
“This is a common symptom of both lung and heart disease,” Goldberg says. Experiencing shortness of breath at low levels of activity can signify several issues including chronic bronchitis, pulmonary disease, high blood pressure, or even a heart attack.
“Women particularly describe shortness of breath without experiencing chest discomfort during heart attacks,” Goldberg says. Wheezing and gasping for air without prior exerting activity may warrant immediate medical attention.
3. Severe Headache
A headache can be a tricky symptom to diagnose, says Dr. Kevin N. Sheth, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
“If you don’t have a history of headaches and all of a sudden you get frequent headaches, that’s a potential warning sign,” he says. Migraines, which are usually associated with sensitivity to light, are not necessarily a cause for alarm. However, if other neurological symptoms – such as loss of vision or double vision, dizziness, difficulty with balance, or nausea – are experienced alongside the pain, Sheth says seek immediate medical attention.
“These symptoms can indicate a range of issues from different kinds of brain hemorrhage, to a stroke, to a neurological infection such as meningitis,” Sheth says.
4. Unexplained Weight Loss
“Losing a lot of weight very quickly is a cause for concern,” says Goldberg. “It can indicate serious problems such as thyroid disease, certain cancers, HIV and major depression.” She advises anyone who has lost a great deal of weight in a short amount of time to visit a doctor immediately.
Although they can be easily mistaken for small ailments, some symptoms can be a severe alarm. Just as a hole in the roof might need patching or a squeaky door needs oil, the body needs regular TLC. Paying attention to the warning signs early can make a world of difference in the future.
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