For my fellow hypochondriacs - stop stressing!

These days many of us, both young and old, allow ourselves to stress out about the symptoms and possible warning signs of heart attacks, cancer, and other serious illnesses. The Internet has made it extremely easy for us to look up any minor pain we may exhibit and blow it out of proportion. I admit to over-thinking every ache and pain I’ve ever had, so much so that my closest friends call me a hypochondriac (someone who is overly anxious about their health). Laugh it up, but the truth is that many of us overreact when we feel any different than our normal state of health. When should we really be concerned, you ask? Here are a list of symptoms that doctors agree may very well require an appointment with your healthcare provider:

1. Unexplained weight loss - Losing up to 10% of your weight within 6 months with little to no intention (though it may sound nice!) is usually linked to a serious cause such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), diabetes, depression, liver disease, cancer, or disorders that interfere with how your body absorbs nutrients (malabsorption disorders).

2. Extreme headaches or sudden extreme headache - If you've ruled out dehydration and you're not hungover, painful headaches can be a sign of something else and should be tended to if they last longer than a day. A sudden headache that feels like one you've never experienced before could be very dangerous and potentially a sign of a ruptured aneurysm.

3. Chest pain and shortness of breath - If you've ever experienced intense chest pain, or a heavy crushing feeling on your chest, you know it's very discomforting. If it is not a symptom of GERD (Gastrointenstinal reflux disease) then it may very well deal with your heart. Most doctors conclude that extreme chest pain/shortness of breath is linked to an angina or heart attack until proven otherwise.

4. Severe abdominal pain - If you experience sudden or severe abdominal pain that you cannot link to bad digestion or gas, you may have to get your appendix checked for appendicitis. If the pain is accompanied by a high fever or bloody stool you should get help immediately!

5. Throbbing tooth: Good dental hygiene is highly necessary for preventing cavities and gingivitis. But if you have been having poor dental habits and experience a throbbing tooth, the tooth nerve is most likely affected and probably damaged. Bacteria in your mouth can infect a damaged nerve causing more problems so get your teeth checked ASAP.

Most importantly, take some time to get to know your body, the types of foods that work with your system, and the types of exercises that your body reacts well to. After all, everyone’s body chemistry is different. Though it is tempting, try not to obsess about every little change you notice in your body. That being said, be on alert when noticing serious symptoms that are generally signs of serious conditions - don't ignore them!

Until next time,

Anela-Lani Alumbaugh

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