Our bodies are pretty amazing. From hiking mountains, to hauling armfuls of groceries, we rely on these nature-made machines for just about everything, oftentimes without even noticing. But especially in today’s fast-paced world, our bodies can’t always keep up with our super busy schedules, demanding workloads, and the endless stimulation of on-demand technology. The result: we end up tired, cranky, and ultimately, sick.
Luckily, our bodies are so smart, they usually start letting us know that it’s time to slow it down far sooner than we might even notice. The trick is learning how to read those physical cues. That’s why I tapped the experts to find out those tell-tale signs from our bodies we should never ignore.
Here are the top symptoms you should not ignore
Chest pain is very serious and requires immediate medical attention. Pain or lingering tightness in the chest can be an indicator of a heart attack — but it could also be a sign of heart disease or even a blood clot.
Any chest pain, especially accompanied by sweating, pressure, shortness of breath, or nausea, should be evaluated by a medical professional right away.
As with any symptom, chest pain does not automatically mean that something terrible is wrong. But in this case it is always better to be safe than sorry!
SUDDEN WEIGHT LOSS
Unexplained weight loss of five percent of your body or more over a relatively short period of time is a serious indicator that you should see a doctor. One of the biggest symptoms of several types of cancer is this type of weight loss, and it is important to catch it as quickly as possible. Other possibilities include diabetes, depression, and problems with your endocrine system.
Colon cancer is commonly associated with unexplained weight loss.
While shedding a few pounds is not cause for concern, if you find yourself unsure of why you are losing weight, it is best to get things checked out!
TROUBLE IN SLEEPING
Skimping on sleep one night to catch up on Game of Thrones is one thing, but Hershenson says that frequent nights spent tossing and turning in bed into the wee hours of the morning could also be a sign of anxiety or depression.
Besides mental illness, insomnia can also be associated with a variety of other medical conditions, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Some of these include asthma, arthritis, and certain endocrine conditions such as hyperthyroidism.
The bottom line: if you catch yourself missing out on regular sleep, it may be time to pay a visit to your doctor.
A sudden onset of extreme pain in your head, particularly if it feels worse than any headaches you’ve had before, is a strong indicator that you should see a doctor right away. These terrible headaches could be a sign of an aneurysm or even a burst blood vessel. There are also other possibilities such as meningitis or shingles.
A sudden, severe headache could be a sign of a more serious, life-threatening condition. Up to six percent of the population could be living with an unruptured brain aneurysm.
As with the onset of any sudden symptom, seeking medical attention is always the smart move with a terrible, unexpected headache!
We all get frustrated, but being extra moody or emotional could be a sign of an underlying mental health issue, according to Hershenson. “Fluctuating between happy and sad or lashing out at others for no reason may be indicators of depression,” she explained to me. “So is not finding joy in things that used to make you happy.”
If you find that you’ve given up on your hobbies or no longer want to socialize, it may be time to talk to a professional.
A persistent fever or one that is abnormally high certainly requires medical attention. As a fever indicates that your body is battling some kind of infection, a more serious fever indicates a more serious infection. Possibilities include meningitis, a urinary tract infection, or even some forms of cancer like lymphoma or leukemia.
Fever of 103 degrees and higher warrants a trip to the doctor.
And while the likelihood of cancer being the problem is low on the list, most of the potential causes require antibiotics, making a doctor’s visit extremely necessary!
Pushing through a single workday when you’re feeling tired is tough enough. Dealing with constant fatigue, especially when its seemingly for no apparent reason, can be downright frustrating. According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, a women’s health expert and author of The Magnesium Miracle, lack of energy can also be a sign of hormonal imbalances, which, if ignored, can lead to other health issues including heart disease and diabetes.
You lack energy because your metabolism is slow. The thyroid controls metabolism and if thyroid hormones are deficient, then the body slows down. Thus, the symptoms reflect this.
There are many situations, such as extreme physical activity, that can cause you to be short of breath. But if you can’t catch your breath for an extended period of time, or if it is accompanied by chest pain, a fever, circulation issues, wheezing, or gasping, you should see a doctor right away. This inability to catch your breath could be a sign of a blood clot or pulmonary disease, both of which are extremely serious.
Without urgent evaluation, breathing can quickly become labored, and it can be catastrophic if not evaluated and treated quickly.
While this shortness of breath could be a sign of severe anxiety or even asthma, it is better to seek medical attention right away to be sure!
Okay, so chances are most of us aren’t spending too much time thinking about good ol’ number two. We all go — some of us once a day, some of us once a week — and it’s all good. No need to pay attention, right? Well, not so much. According to Dr. Dean, our bathroom habits can actually be a big indicator of our overall health. “Slow metabolism leads to slow bowel movement,” she told me.
If you’re experiencing constipation along with other symptoms like fatigue, muscle cramps or headaches, it could be a sign that your body is lacking some much needed magnesium.
Swollen legs mean that fluid is accumulating that shouldn’t be there, and it may be a sign of heart failure, thyroid problems, or even vein problems. And if it is accompanied by pain in the back of your lower leg, it could be an indication of a blood clot. In any case, you should seek medical attention.
If you flex your toes upward and it hurts, that’s also suggestive of a blood clot. But don’t rely on that. If it’s hot, red, and swollen on one side, go to the ER.
Regardless of what is causing the swelling, it is very important to have a doctor check things out right away!
Your hair can also be a big indicator that your metabolism isn’t working to its full capacity, Dr. Dean explained, with hair loss and dry hair being the biggest red flags to look for. “Your hair doesn’t grow as fast when your circulation is slowed down and doesn’t nourish your hair,” she said.
SEVERE ABDOMINAL PAIN
Serious and sudden pain in your stomach is definitely an indication that you should see your doctor. This severe pain could be a sign of an aortic aneurysm or other blood flow issues. If it is accompanied by nausea and vomiting, it could be a sign of painful gallstones.
If the aneurysm ruptures, the pain tends to be sudden and severe and typically centralized around the belly button.
While you should never panic, this symptom should be taken seriously and you should see a doctor right away!
Everybody uses the bathroom, but if you find yourself having to go over and over again, it might be a sign that something is not right and that you should see your doctor. Excessive urination can be an indication that a mass is pressing on the bladder. These are often benign, but they should be tested right away.
If you’re going to the bathroom more often, then a lightbulb should go off in your head that something’s not right.
While this isn’t necessarily a reason to run to the doctor in the middle of the night, it is serious enough that it is worth getting checked out sooner rather than later!