The body is an excellent communicator, but sometimes we tune out what it’s trying to tell us. It’s time for us to listen to our bodies, acknowledge unexplained symptoms and take control of our health.
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Consistent forgetfulness. “If you consistently can’t remember the names of ordinary objects or your short-term memory gets very fragile, you may be experiencing the early signs of Alzheimer’s,” says Ellen Wood, who watched her own mother suffer from the disease. “I noticed that I was experiencing a mental decline similar to my mother’s, and my distress became the wake-up call of a lifetime.”
Feeling anxious or depressed. “We all worry or become sad at times, but if you feel depressed, sad, anxious, worried or stressed out for two weeks or more, you may have depression or anxiety,” says health and wellness expert Jenny Giblin, who was recently featured on The Dr. Oz Show. Talk to a healthcare professional to change your life for the better. “There is less stigma than ever before attached to mental health,” Gilpin adds, “and everything can be kept confidential.”
Loss of balance. “Often overlooked, loss of balance is a common side effect of vertigo, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and aging,” says Hilary Young of Medical Guardian medical alert systems. “Balance problems lead to falls, which sent nearly 3 million people to the emergency room last year.”
Unresolved skin issues. “It may seem like a cosmetic problem, but when a skin issue does not go away, it is most likely related to a deeper issue with the digestive system,” warns Giblin. “Whatever our body cannot digest can end up getting expressed through the skin. Talk to your doctor and try eliminating dairy and gluten to see if that helps clear up your skin issues.”
Changes in skin. “With more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed each year, the incidences of skin cancer outnumber all cases of breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers combined,” according to Dr. Justin Piasecki, a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Harbor Plastic Surgery Center in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Dr. Piasecki encourages women to pay special attention to any unusual growths or marks on their skin and to make a concerted effort to protect their skin from exposure to the sun. “In addition to getting a yearly exam, look for sudden changes in skin,” he says. “This may include moles or beauty marks that may have become discolored or increased in size or thickness or any open sores that do not heal within a few weeks.”
Ear, nose and throat symptoms
Allergy symptoms. “When you start to notice symptoms of allergies, headaches, asthma or unexplainable health complaints (but your typical medical tests are normal), start examining your home environment,” says indoor air quality specialist Caroline Blazovsky, America’s Healthy Home Expert. “You can test for molds, dander, chemicals and toxins in the home that may be making you sick.”
Sparkles in your vision. “Sparkles in your vision may indicate retinal detachment,” says Dr. Amy Baxter, CEO of MMJ Labs.
Losing your voice. “Lung cancer is often asymptomatic until later stages of the disease,” says Rachel Schwartz of the Lung Cancer Foundation of America. “Symptoms that might send a woman to the doctor include losing your voice, back pain, strange esophageal pain and other symptoms that one might not expect to associate with lung cancer (which kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer).”
Persistent cough. “Women should never, ever ignore a persistent cough because this is one of the main symptoms of lung cancer,” says Gabby Geier of the Lung Cancer Alliance. “This applies to all women, not just current or former smokers.” It’s important to address a persistent cough with your doctor.
Post-menopausal bleeding. “This can be a sign of a gynecological cancer, which should be ruled out as soon as possible,” says Abigail Egginton, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Pleasantville, NY. If you’re not post-menopausal but are experiencing breakthrough bleeding, it too may be a symptom of cancer.
Bleeding gums. “Oftentimes, patients think that bleeding gums are merely a dental issue,” says Dr. Carol Brooks, “however, the issue may be an underlying symptom of a systemic disease such as diabetes.” Over the course of her 25-year dental practice, Dr. Brooks has always encouraged patients with these symptoms to discuss the issue with their primary care doctor. “Women should pay close attention to their oral health as a way to take preventive action,” she says.
Digestive health symptoms
Stomach pain. “No matter how dull or sharp, any pain that persists in your stomach or lower abdomen needs attention,” says Giblin. “Our organs that are responsible for helping us stay healthy and energized are located in this area, and there should not be any pain.” Go to your primary care doctor and OB-GYN and describe your problem and when it feels the worst.
Heartburn. “If you periodically get really bad heartburn, then you should definitely go to the doctor,” says Beth Shaw, founder of YogaFit and leader of Mind Body Fitness education. “Sometimes the culprit is spicy food, but it could also be the early sign of heart problems or heart attack.”
Urinary incontinence. “Urinary incontinence is extremely common among women of all ages, and unfortunately it’s something that women often dismiss or ignore,” says doctor of physical therapy Brianne Grogan, founder of FemFusion Fitness and creator of 8 Weeks to Pelvic Health.
“They may be embarrassed to talk to their healthcare provider, and so instead opt to go through life wearing panty liners or pads and avoiding activities or situations that may cause leakage and embarrassment. This can be the start of a vicious cycle that contributes to inactivity and weight gain, both of which can contribute to increased incidence of incontinence.”
Heart attack symptoms
Women are less likely to call 911 for themselves when experiencing symptoms of a heart attack than they are for someone else having a heart attack.
“Women should never ever ignore these symptoms,” says Nancy Capelle, founder of Cardiac Companion, LLC. “A heart attack can happen to anyone at any age, even without risk factors.”
- Shortness of breath
- Pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
- Pressure in the upper back
- Extreme fatigue
“Many women show up in emergency rooms after much heart damage has already occurred because their symptoms are not those typically associated with a heart attack,” says Capelle.