To set the right mood, this article isn’t supposed to scare you into overanalysing small changes in your body. It’s about obvious changes that need to be taken seriously, especially as you age. Your body gives you signs of activity all the time. They’re often unnoticeable, but become fairly obvious when out of sync with your general, day-to-day health.
The most common symptoms to look out for are those regarding heart, lung and kidney conditions. There are some unmistakeable and other more subtle symptoms you need to look out for when you feel things are out of sorts.
The often subtle signs of a stroke
You can suffer a stroke without even being vaguely aware that it is happening. However, common physical symptoms include paralysis in the arms and legs, tingling sensations, numbness and weakness on one side of the face or body. Neurological signs manifest in confusion, dizziness, seeing double, slurred speech and trouble finding words.
Symptoms are typically dependent on the affected area of your brain. If there is a blockage in a large vessel, symptoms could lie on the worse end of the spectrum – such as paralysis in one side. A smaller blockage could leave only one limb or side of the face affected.
Signs of a heart attack – Hollywood gets it (sort of) right
We’re all familiar with those scenes where the sudden clutching of the chest or an arm falling limp on the table. While these signs tend to be accompanied by bad acting, they are actually true. Common symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain or pressure, pain in the jaw, neck or arm, suddenly breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling faint or being short of breath with no obvious cause.
If you experience these symptoms without obvious aggravation, it’s best to err on the side of caution and head to the ER. Taking a full-strength aspirin can also be a useful preventative measure to avoid heart muscle damage during an attack.
For women and the elderly, “painless” heart attacks are also a reality. There is no sudden chest pain, but rather sudden dizziness, a pounding heart, loss of breath sweating, nausea and vomiting. These are difficult to recognize, as your first suspicion might be stomach-related issues.
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Signs of an aneurism or blood clot
A clot in the leg is not uncommon, but can have serious implications if left unattended. They can be the result of sitting down for a long period of time – like on a long flight or road trip. Anybody can get them, and they are more common than you think.
Pain in the back of your lower leg, chest pain, shortness of breath, or worse, coughing up blood, are all symptoms of a clot. If a blood clot forms, your calf can feel swollen and tender. If a piece of the clot breaks off and travels to your lungs, you might then feel pain in your chest. If these things are happening concurrently, get to the ER as soon as possible.
Is your pee trying to tell you something?
The most common symptom to be wary of is blood in the urine. It can be painless, often prompting people to have an “I’m sure it’s nothing” attitude. If it is accompanied by other painful symptoms, which it often is, you are more likely to get help a lot sooner. Blood in the urine should always warrant concern. It can be a sign of kidney stones or a bladder or prostate infection. If you notice any blood in your urine, call your doctor.
Read a little bit more about this issue here.
Breathe easy – signs of chronic Asthma
Wheezing, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath are common symptoms of asthma. However, the trouble comes when they don’t go away, despite treatment. Asthma attacks that are left untreated can lead to serious muscle fatigue and respiratory strain. You lose oxygen and retain carbon dioxide, which has a sedative effect on the brain. Instead of realising that there’s an issue, you might start to feel better and more relaxed. The problem is that you could actually be losing so much oxygen that your body is shutting down. Don’t leave an asthma attack unattended.
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So you might be saying, “but so many of these symptoms are the same, how am I supposed to know what’s wrong?” The point is, something IS wrong and needs attention. These are your body’s warning signs, so whatever they might mean, you need to take them seriously.
On the other hand, it’s important not to overreact to symptoms that are common for almost everyone. Be sensible in your response - if you just have a pain in your neck, it’s probably not a heart attack. But if it’s followed by shortness of breath and pressure in your chest, it’s worth investigating.