Sudden Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
The recent sudden death of Tony-award winning actress Natasha Richardson came as a tragic shock. But, it also serves as a warning to all of us that seemingly mild symptoms can sometimes signal potentially deadly problems.
Of course, you don’t want to make tracks to the emergency room at the first sign of every ailment. But, if you’ve been in an accident – even a fairly minor one – or suddenly experience any of the symptoms below, it’s smart to get checked out immediately. Here are some dangerous symptoms you can’t afford to ignore.
Richardson was struck with a horrible headache within hours of her skiing accident, which signaled a traumatic brain injury and bleeding in the brain. Sudden, migraine-strength headaches can appear out of the blue – and if one does, get to the doctor fast! A headache worse than any you’ve ever had before can be the beginning signs of an aneurysm. If your headache is accompanied by stiffness, and you can’t move your neck, meningitis could be a possible culprit … and you’ll need antibiotics immediately to prevent permanent damage.
Of course, headaches aren’t the only clue that something is wrong. Slurred speech, paralysis, confusion and numbness are all are signs of a potential stroke. Run, don’t walk, to the ER. Catching the warning signs early on could prevent permanent damage to your brain.
Heart & Soul
Chest pain is the most common symptom ER doctors see, and one of the most important. Fifty percent of deaths from heart attacks happen within the first four hours, so get to the ER quickly. But chest pain isn’t the only sign of a heart attack. Other signs that your ticker’s in trouble include pain in the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, indigestion, extreme weakness, or anxiety, and a rapid or irregular heart beat.
Women often have different symptoms of a heart attack than men and may report symptoms before having a heart attack, although the symptoms are not typical “heart” symptoms. In a multi-center study of 515 women who had an acute heart attack, the most frequently reported symptoms were unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances, indigestion, and anxiety. The majority of women (78 percent) reported at least one symptom for more than one month before their heart attack. Only 30 percent reported chest discomfort, which was described as an aching, tightness, pressure, sharpness, burning, fullness, or tingling.
Call 911 at the first sign of a heart attack. Don’t wait for the symptoms to “go away.” The best time to treat a heart attack is within one hour of the onset of the first symptoms. When a heart attack occurs, there’s a limited amount of time before significant and long-lasting damage occurs to the heart muscle. If a large area of the heart is injured during the heart attack, full recovery becomes much more difficult.
Shortness of breath can also signal heart failure. While it’s natural to feel a little breathless after climbing a flight of stairs, if you’re gasping for air when lying or sitting down, call your doctor. Other causes of breathlessness are asthma, anxiety, or a blood clot in the lungs.
Intense stomach pain could just be an acute case of gas. But, if the pain persists, it could also be your appendix. Don’t take the chance that it may rupture – something that can happen in as little as 48 hours after symptoms begin. Head to the ER immediately, since infection from a ruptured appendix can be life-threatening.
Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting can be a sure sign of food poisoning – and with all of the recent food recalls, a case of salmonella or E-coli can turn deadly. If you suspect you’ve eaten something “off” and have been suffering with severe diarrhea and/or vomiting for several hours, seek medical help.
The sensation of “pins and needles” in your feet or legs could be a sign of damage to your circulatory and nervous systems caused by chronically high blood sugar levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes, and one-quarter of those are undiagnosed. If you have diabetes and don’t know it, you could be setting yourself up for life-threatening complications, if not treated.
Tingling, numbness, or pain when you walk could also be an indication that your leg arteries are harboring plaque – a condition known as peripheral artery disease. Ignoring this type of atherosclerosis can eventually cause you to lose one or both legs.
Pain and swelling in your calf can signal deep vein thrombosis, a potentially fatal problem that strikes more than 600,000 Americans each year. If you’re a smoker, just had surgery, are obese, or have been sitting still for over three hours, you could be at risk. If your symptoms appeared suddenly and have lasted a few hours, see your doctor as soon as possible. If you’re having shortness of breath, chest pain, or difficulty breathing, a clot may have traveled to your lungs. Get to the ER immediately.
One Last Thing …
Knowing what to take seriously and what to take in stride can help prevent serious health issues once they occur. But it’s much better if you can head health problems off at the pass. Combining daily exercise with a diet bursting with colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fish can help keep your heart and circulatory system in top form. Adding a comprehensive multivitamin-multimineral supplement can give you even more protection, thanks to an array of antioxidants, trace minerals, and phytonutrients.
You can also protect both your digestive and immune systems with supplemental probiotics. These beneficial bugs absorb mutagens that cause cancer, stimulate the immune system, and quell inflammation. They can also help stem diarrhea by populating the gut with friendly bacteria. There is even evidence that probiotics lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Look for a probiotic supplement that contains a variety of bacteria strains like Lactobacillus (including L. acidophilus) and Bifidobacterium. The minimum recommended dose to prevent and treat common conditions is 1 billion live organisms per day. But it is often preferable to use more, such as 2 billion to 6 billion live organisms, taken in divided doses.
Research Brief …
Luckily for my blood pressure, I’m not a big fan of salt. I use very little when I cook and virtually none at the table. Pepper is a different story. In my kitchen, those little black flakes really fly!
To me, pepper is the only spice that adds a certain something to food without overpowering it. Better yet, recent research shows that pepper serves up a myriad of health benefits. Piperine, the major alkaloid in black pepper, makes the nutrients in food more available to the body. Piperine also simulates enzymes in the pancreas that breakdown proteins in the digestive tract. Besides helping digestion, piperine increases endorphins in the brain, producing joy and acting as a natural anti-depressant. Piperine is even said to fight colon cancer!
For those who are physically unable to digest or stand the taste of pepper, piperine can be found in supplement form. In fact, many other supplements include piperine (under the name Bioperine) to enhance absorption of the main nutrients. Recommendations are to take those supplements alongside meals for the maximum effect.
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Bell M, Lommel T, Fischer JG, et al. “Improved recognition of heart attack and stroke symptoms after a community-based intervention for older adults, Georgia, 2006-2007.” Preventing Chronic Disease. 2009;6:A41.
Maki DG. “Coming to grips with foodborne infection – peanut butter, peppers, and nationwide salmonella outbreaks.” New England Journal of Medicine. 2009;360:949-953.
Manoharan S, Balakrishnan S, Menon VP, et al. “Chemopreventive efficacy of curcumin and piperine during 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced hamster buccal pouch carcinogenesis.” Singapore Medical Journal. 2009;50:139-146.
Srinivasan K. “Black pepper and its pungent principle-piperine: a review of diverse physiological effects.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2007;47:735-748.
Source by Bonnie Jenkins