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Westminster At Lake Ridge Blog

WLR Blog
Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2020

5 health signs you should never ignore

Aches and pains typically had a direct link to injury or illness when we were younger. But as we grow older, their source can be somewhat of a mystery. They may become easier to ignore when we think of them as a result of age. Although they often may be, there are circumstances when you’ll need to pay attention and get immediate medical help.

Here are 5 signs that shouldn’t be ignored or left for your own diagnosis. It’s much safer to let your doctor discover if something is wrong and provide treatment.

  1. Chest pain or tightness

Chest pain doesn’t always signal a heart attack. But if you experience discomfort, nausea, dizziness and pain radiating to your neck, jaw or arms along with shortness of breath and sweating, you should call 911 immediately. For women or older adults, there may be no chest pain but if the other symptoms are present, call 911, according to UNC Health Talk.

Pain in the chest can also be caused by other ailments. Here are three clues that it’s likely not a heart attack:

  1. Sharp pain from a very specific location. Heart attack pain is usually dull and diffusely located.
  2. Pain that moves to different areas in the chest. Heart attack pain can radiate to the arms and jaw but it doesn’t move from place to place.
  3. Pain that gets worse when you take a breath. There are many reasons for this, including a cracked rib.

Chest pain can also result from gastrointestinal pain of acid reflux, pneumonia or a pulled muscle. But if you have heart attack symptoms or are unsure if it’s a heart attack, it’s always better to be safe and call 911.

  1. Headaches

As we grow older, one thing we have less of are headaches. But when your head does ache, it can be serious and you should seek the opinion of your doctor or medical team.

Here are a few headache types from webmd.com. If you do experience these, let your doctor know.

  1. Late-Life Migraine Accompaniments: can include transient blindness, blurring or loss of vision on one side, numbness, hearing loss, vertigo, slurred speech and loss of consciousness.
  2. Cerebrovascular Disease: headaches often accompany strokes and can come on quickly or slowly. Most report the pain to be mild or moderately painful but it can also be incapacitating.
  3. Head Trauma: falling can cause subdural hematomas or bleeding on the brain. Headaches are present in up to 90% of those with head trauma and can range from mild to severe.
  4. Temporal Arteritis: headaches are the most common symptom to accompany this disease that causes your arteries to swell and narrow. It’s more common in people over the age of 50.
  5. Postherpetic Neuralgia: this nerve pain occurs after an outbreak of shingles that is more common in those older than age 80.
  6. Sudden weight loss

Weight loss can be a positive step for those who need to lose pounds but if it’s unintentional, you’ll want to be sure to talk to a doctor to rule out possible serious causes. According to the Institute on Aging, sudden or too much weight loss can have a negative effect on the immune system, causing someone to be more vulnerable to infection and illness. It can also cause fatigue which often results in fewer activities and exercise, and a loss of muscle mass which can lead to a greater risk of falls and injuries.

If you’re losing weight but have not been trying to, here are some of the possible causes:

  1. dementia
  2. gastrointestinal disorders
  3. cancer
  4. endocrine disorders
  5. difficulty chewing and swallowing
  6. depression and anxiety

While the metabolism slows as we grow older, we typically don’t need as much food as we used to so it becomes even more important to make sure we’re getting the nutrients we need. But you need to talk to your doctor if you have unintentional weight loss between 5% - 10% of body weight over 1 to 12 months or 5% over 6 months.

  1. Wounds that won’t or are slow to heal

As we grow older, the skin doesn’t heal as quickly as it used to. But if you notice you have a wound that doesn’t heal or that is taking longer than it should, be sure to check with your doctor.

According to Harvard Medical School’s Health Letter, the most common reasons for a wound not healing are:

  1. diabetes: with vision challenges and numbness in the lower legs and feet, it makes it difficult to see or feel a cut. With decreased blood flow, a small cut can grow to a large wound that heals slowly and may get infected.
  2. pressure:  often referred to as bedsores, these wounds can become severe. Pressure cuts blood flow to the tissue and if it lasts more than four hours, the tissue can be irreversibly damaged and die.
  3. venous insufficiency: caused when the veins can no longer move blood back to the heart, causing leg swelling and skin ulcers. The blood can leak out of the tissue and into the skin causing wounds to form.

Care for serious wounds often include removing any dead tissue, special dressing to promote healing and in some cases skin grafts. But it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

  1. Dizziness

This feeling is actually one of the most common reasons for doctor visits. And older adults are more likely to have medical conditions that can cause dizziness, especially when it brings about the feeling of imbalance. The medications that we take as we grow older are also often the culprit for causing dizziness.

One of the biggest risks of dizziness is an increase in falls that can cause an injury. Symptoms include a false sense of motion, lightheadedness and loss of balance. They can be triggered by walking, standing or moving your head and can last seconds or days and may go away and recur again.

You should see your doctor if you experience recurrent, sudden, severe or prolonged symptoms. Get emergency care if you experience dizziness along with:

  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Numbness or paralysis of arms or legs, stumbling or difficulty walking
  • Fainting
  • Double vision
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion or slurred speech
  • Seizures
  • Facial numbness or weakness

Ingleside Communities

Westminster at Lake Ridge’s Assisted Living and our At Home Services, we’re here to support your good health so that you can enjoy the highest quality of life possible.

Please Call (703) 794-4631 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.



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