We all have good and bad days and, sometimes, so do our bodies depending on how active we are or how sensitive our body is to outside influences. Our body is constantly giving us signs. From mild signs and symptoms to severe ones, many health conditions make their presence known by ‘bothering’ your body and some are more subtle. It’s our responsibility to notice what our bodies are trying to tell us.
As soon as you notice any unusual changes in your body, see your doctor. Sudden fatigue, weight loss, unexplained headaches, bleeding gums, anything you think doesn’t have a clear explanation could mean something more, so do not ignore it. With that in mind, we intend to explain things away. That is what I did for years. Let’s take a look at some of the subtle signs of deadly health issues hiding in plain sight!
These are several of the signs I had and chalked them up to stress and lack of sleep. I wish I had not ignored them or waited so long to go to the Doctor. I felt I did not have the time or money to spend on myself. I was too busy trying to create an income and exit strategy so I could work from home and spend more time with my family. Then Covid happened and healthcare was not readily available. I did get to spend more time at home with my family, just not the way I was planning.
- Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick especially after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus.
Some common causes of insomnia include stress, an irregular sleep schedule, poor sleeping habits, anxiety and depression, physical illnesses and pain, medications, mouth breathing.
Some symptoms may include fatigue, irritability, mood changes, difficulty focusing and remembering.
Some of the most common serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression, impairment in immunity, and lower sex drive. Chronic sleep deprivation can even affect your appearance, dark circles under your eyes, and open mouth posture.
- Extreme Tiredness or Fatigue
Extreme tiredness or fatigue is another symptom of several serious health diseases that hide in plain sight. When we are tired, there’s a ton of things to blame. From lack of sleep to having an exhausting day at the office or intense physical activity, tiredness shows up almost every single day in someone’s life.
- Stress and Panic Attacks
Stress is a normal reaction the body has when changes occur, resulting in physical, emotional, and intellectual responses. There are many factors that can lead to stress and panic attacks. Situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, like a rocky relationship, kids, or an exhausting work schedule. In fact, according to Mental Health America, more than 55% of Americans with serious mental health issues like panic attacks don’t get treatment. Depriving your mind and body of treatment could eventually lead to heart problems. There’s a strong connection between someone’s mental health, mouth health, and heart health. Stress could be part of your life without you even realizing it1 You can stress yourself out just by worrying about things. … you hear on the news, can cause you to feel stressed, It’s called the “fight or flight” response, and it’s why, when you’re in a stressful situation, you are triggered by feelings and things happening in your life, for example: being under lots of pressure, big changes, worrying about something, not having control over the outcome of a situation, having responsibilities that you’re finding overwhelming, not having enough work, activities or change in your life, times of uncertainty.
There might be one big thing causing you stress, or a build-up of small things, making it harder for you to identify what’s making you feel stressed.
Stress triggers and how the body responds causes wear and tear physically, emotionally, and behaviorally.
Physical symptoms of stress may include:
- Muscle tension aches and pains
- Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing
- Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
- Dizziness or shaking
- High Blood Pressure
- Jaw clenching
- Stomach or digestive problems
- Weak immune system
Stress can lead to emotional and mental symptoms like:
- Anxiety or irritability
- Mood changes or depression
Often, people with chronic stress try to compensate it with unhealthy behaviors, including:
- Using drugs
- Overeating or developing an eating disorder
- Compulsive shopping
Stress management training can help you deal with things in a healthier manner.
- Stress and Panic Attacks
Did you know that more than 40 million American adults live with migraines or a form of headaches? If you’re not one of them, you for sure have a friend or relative who deals with constant headaches. In fact, headache is actually the most common type of pain.
Unfortunately, people tend to ignore them, saying that a pain reliever will do the trick eventually, and in most cases, it does, but what happens when you simply can not get rid of your headaches?
Headaches could mean so much more than the blue light from the hours spent in front of your computer. They are also symptoms of a stroke. According to recent research, persistent headaches, especially if accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and visual changes.
Many things could trigger your headaches, for me, it is certain ingredients in foods and products.
- Severe Headaches
Headaches are of all types, tension, Sinus, migraines, cluster headaches, all have different symptoms.
Frequent or severe headaches can affect a person’s quality of life. Knowing how to recognize the cause of a headache can help a person take appropriate action.
Don’t be diagnosing yourself using your friend Google. Doctors say that there are too many variables in general associated with headaches for self-diagnosis.
For instance, an intense headache could be a sign of an infection like meningitis. Almost all meningitis patients experience severe headaches also that require immediate medical attention or it could lead to permanent neurological damage; it could be fatal in some cases.
FYI: In the COVID-19 era, headaches are a symptom of this deadly virus.
Many people experience more than one of the various types of headaches over their lifetime. Anyone who experiences severe or recurrent headaches should consult a doctor or receive professional care.
- Bleeding Gums
Occasional bleeding of the gums can be caused by a traumatic injury, not brushing enough along the gum line, brushing your teeth too vigorously and cutting the gum, or not flossing consistently. Frequent gum bleeding can also indicate more serious conditions, including gingivitis, periodontitis (an advanced form of gum disease), and some cancers like leukemia (cancer of the blood).
Unless you know what caused the bleeding. Any form of bleeding in your mouth is a sign something is wrong. Do not ignore this symptom! If we have to bleed anywhere else in the body we would seek immediate attention. So why do we not take blood in our mouths more seriously? Our mouth and body give us signs. Are you listening?
- Facial Puffiness
This sign is pretty common, especially if you consume salty foods regularly. Alcohol consumption can also be a factor.
Puffiness in the face could be a sign of an allergic reaction, tooth problem, or a tumor. How so? Tumors actually restrict blood flow in the area, as a result, puffiness shows up. Don’t ignore this sign, as innocent and harmless as it seems, it could be a more serious issue.
A common health issue in many people is bloating. It occurs when the belly becomes swollen due to gas or air after a meal. In some cases, bloating can lead to discomfort, pain, or make the stomach look and feel bigger than usual. It can also indicate the presence of some more serious conditions in both children and adults.
Certain foods such as beans can make us bloated, but if you can’t blame it on a meal, experiencing unexplained bloating on a regular basis could translate to stomach, colon, pancreatic, and ovarian cancers.
However, don’t rush into making any medical assumptions. Just call your doctor instead, if your bloating doesn’t seem to go away.
- Hair loss
Hair loss is inevitable. In most cases, it occurs due to aging and depends mostly on genetics. Hair loss affects an estimated 80 million people in the United States, both men, and women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Other times, hair loss is a symptom of an underlying medical issue. Hair loss can also be a side effect or symptom of certain medications or a systemic illness. In many of these cases, the hair loss is accompanied by other symptoms, like rashes, fatigue, lack of energy, or muscle aches that just won’t go away.
If you are experiencing hair from your eyebrows or eyelashes, it could mean you have a serious form of an autoimmune condition known as alopecia. Other autoimmune conditions that could cause non-scalp hair loss include thyroid disease and lupus. In many cases, Doctors can use blood work to determine the exact cause of hair loss.
- Broken Nails
Broken nails are another thing that is inevitable in life. You were finally able to grow your nails and get a perfect manicure, only look down and see your nail broken, once one breaks there goes another. Now, the only thing left to do is cut or file them all down (so at least they match) and wait for them to grow out again. Talk about frustrating.
The thing is, that broken nail might be more than just an unfortunate turn of events — it may be a symptom of a bigger problem. My nails have been very strong so strong in fact some nail clippers would not cut them. So when they started breaking consistently on the side, it was a cause for concern. I was losing hair too, I just chalked it up to stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet. Little did I know it was due to cancer growing in my body I was oblivious to.
Broken nails happen to all of us every now and then, but if it’s happening to you frequently, you may need to ask yourself why. According to Dr. Christa M. Tomc of Westlake Dermatology, the skin, hair, and nails can tell us a lot about what’s going on with our bodies. They can also provide hints that our daily lifestyle habits and diets may not be up to par. If your nails tend to break as soon as they grow past your fingertips, it may be time to schedule a checkup.
If your nails are weak and brittle, it may be a sign that your body is lacking important vitamins and minerals, like iron, B, C, D, E. Foods high in protein provide the most dietary nourishment for our nails, helping to make keratin, the protein that makes up our nails.
If you’re not drinking enough water, and your nails are not immune. In fact, dehydration is a major factor in many cases of brittle nails. Help your nails get the hydration they need from the inside by drinking adequate amounts of water.
Read More: This is a good reference
- Gastrointestinal issues
Our digestive system is linked to many things, including our mouth and our mood. Taking proper care of it could make a huge difference between you ending up in the ER or not. Gastrointestinal issues are also linked to colon cancer. Sadly, colon cancer is a type of cancer that has few signs and symptoms. Even if it had more, most people would ignore them and/or explain it away.
If you are experiencing stomach pain, cramps, bloating, diarrhea, or if you think that something’s wrong with your bowel movements, visit your doctor to make sure that you’re not at risk of a hidden systemic illness.
- Unexplained Weight Loss
If you’re not on a weight-loss diet, but you’re shedding pounds, you’re not just lucky. Unintended and unexplained weight loss is definitely a cause for concern. As The American Cancer Society noted, weight loss is one of the seemingly innocent signs of cancer. Especially when referring to lung, pancreas, stomach, and esophagus cancers. If you are experiencing unexplained weight loss please see a doctor.
- Difficulty Swallowing
If you have a common cold or sore throat, difficulty swallowing is an obvious symptom, If you are experiencing difficulty swallowing for apparently no reason. Even if it’s just a little discomfort, don’t ignore this symptom. Oral Cancer has a high mortality rate because it is usually not found until a later stage. Why? Because the majority of Americans only see a dentist if they are in pain.
According to The Cancer Center, difficulty swallowing could be a sign of esophageal cancer. Seek medical attention ASAP.
- Night Sweats
Night sweats are something all of us experience from time to time. I get them frequently myself. If the room temperature is above 72 degrees. Keep your room cool at night helps you sleep better and reduces your chance of night sweats. If your night sweats seem to have no reason at all, they may be life-threatening and could also be a sign of certain types of cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.
- Frequent Heartburn
Another innocent sign of a serious health issue is frequent heartburn. Sadly, heartburn is not seen as a serious health problem by most of us, and another sign we explain away and ignore. Persistent heartburn should most definitely not be ignored since it could signal an underlying condition. It also causes a more acidic environment in our mouth which leads to cavities and dental disease.
People who have this condition are at a greater risk of developing esophageal cancer, so if you experience heartburn, do not hesitate, call your doctor immediately. The sooner your doctor detects the condition, the better. However, frequent heartburn is not the only subtle sign of heart disease or heart attack it is also one for some cancers.
- Chest Pain
Chest pain has a wide variety of causes and is associated with numerous conditions. From heart-related medical reasons to mental ones. Sare pretty minor, such as the type of chest pain caused by indigestion, but others can signal a heart attack.
Heart attacks strike rapidly and most of them start with discomfort felt in the chest, as highlighted by The American Heart Association. No matter the root cause of your chest pain, do not ignore it. If you act immediately, a simple phone call just might save your life.
Are you hearing a shrill whistle every single time you breathe? Although wheezing is a result of allergies and asthma most times, you shouldn’t neglect the more serious reasons that could be the cause.
If your nose is stuffy you can try an unblocking exercise. Place the roof of your mouth, take a deep breath in ten out, pinch your nose with your thumb and index finger, sway your head back and forth up and down holding your breath until you hunger for air, breath in through your nose. Repeat as many times as needed.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wheezing can also be a sign of lung cancer, COPD, and heart failure as well.
- Frequent Urination
The bathroom is always on my mind. I wish it was not. Frequent urination is definitely a major health concern.
Why? Because 7.2 million Americans are walking around with undiagnosed diabetes and it is the seventh leading cause of death in our country. Frequent urination is often one of the common symptoms of this disease. When ignored, diabetes can lead to many health issues, including problems with kidneys, blood vessels, nerves, and infections.
I was seeing a Urologist for this because I was getting up 2-4 times a night to use the bathroom, I kept a glass of water next to the bed and was waking up with a stuffy nose, dry mouth, and sore throat. During Covid, I became an Oral Myofunctional Therapist and learned about mouth taping. I now put a piece of tape over my mouth before I go to sleep and I am no longer waking up in the middle of the night to pee and all the other symptoms are gone. Who knew simply taping my mouth at night would help me breathe better sleep better not wake up to pee and feel more rested. See Mouth taping.
- Bad Breath
Bad Breath is also known as Halitosis is for sure something unpleasant and embarrassing, especially when you’re about to kiss someone.
Bad breath could be a sign of a serious health condition. Liver disease, diabetes, and kidney disease are some of them. If the unpleasant smell doesn’t go away after brushing and flossing, visit your dentist or/and your doctor.
- Metallic Taste in Your Mouth
This is yet another sign of a serious health condition that hides in plain sight is a metallic taste in your mouth. This type of taste is often associated with kidney disease. According to the CDC, more than 90% of American adults with kidney disease don’t realize they have the disease.
This is probably because its symptoms are far less obvious. Ammonia breath, a.k.a. metallic taste in the mouth is one of its signs of kidney disease; however, it is hard to diagnose since this symptom is also linked to sinus infections, urinary tract infections, too much protein consumption, and dehydration.
Swelling is another symptom related to improper kidney function. When they aren’t working as they should, your kidneys can’t remove the water excess from your body, causing the fluids to become unwanted guests in the tissues.
Therefore, swelling of ankles, face, feet, or hands are also signs of kidney disease. As soon as you discover any swelling, contact your doctor.
- Frank’s Sign
This was a new one for me. I had never heard of this until I started researching my cancer. Go grab a mirror and check your earlobe or your loved ones’ earlobes. What do you see? Is a crease on it? Google this so you can see what it looks like! Frank’s sign looks like a crease that forms on someone’s earlobe. The presence of bilateral diagonal earlobe creases (DELCs), also known as Frank’s sign, correlates with a myriad of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral vascular disease. The use of Frank’s sign as a predictor of underlying coronary artery disease is controversial. If you do see something, there’s certainly a solid reason to visit your doctor.
Do you see a pattern with signs and symptoms many are often overlooked because they are way too subtle? I am guilty of overlooking and blatantly ignoring many of these signs explaining them away as stress-related.
Regardless of why they are signs that should not be ignored, better to find out it is nothing now than blow it off and find out you have cancer and it has progressed because you ignored what your body was trying to tell you.
I felt like I did not have the time or money. Now I am spending way more of both of those currencies due to my choice. I get to spend more time with my family, but instead of making fun memories, I laid in bed for weeks while they took care of me.
Please learn from my mistakes. Prevention and early diagnosis is the better way to go than the road I chose.
Staying healthy is an important commitment to make to yourself. Being proactive about your lifestyle and health care is an easy way to ensure you’re making the best possible decisions for yourself.
Trust me when I say it is a different life when you are sick, when you don’t have your health you miss out on a lot of moments you can never get back.
We as Americans do not put our health first, it is apparent by how we take care of our mouths, how we eat, exercise, and the fact that we want everything at our fingertips. There is a pill for our ill.
What is convenience costing us? Our healthcare system treats sick people and it is a trillion-dollar-a-year business. We all have family members that have had cavities, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer and cancer.
Many of these illnesses are preventable. Awareness and knowledge are power. If Covid taught us nothing it is that a weakened immune system makes us more susceptible to illness.
Does healthier food cost more? Yes, they do. Do I hear going to the doctor or dentist is expensive? Yep, every day. If I could go back and be consistent with what I put in and on my body with the water I drank, the foods I ate, the products I chose, yearly checkups. I would. But I can’t. I can only move forward and share my story and experiences with others.
Will I change the world? Probably not we are creatures of habit. But I can make a difference to the people who follow me. I don’t have all the answers no one does. I know I have helped thousands of people over my 30 years as a dental hygienist. When I get a big hug from a child that is no longer in pain and has a cavity-free dental visit, I know I have done my part as little as it may be, I made a difference to her.
That is what makes continuing my education worth it, so I teach parents what to look for and where to get help for their kiddos. Having Cancer made me take pause and ask what I can do to make the world a better place. Thank you for taking the time to read, listening, watching and sharing. It does take a village, each of us has our own community of family and friends we do need each other.