We all live busy lives and ailments come and go. Nobody feels perfect all of the time.
But, in certain instances your body may be trying to tell you something important. Pay attention to these signs and symptoms and know when to get yourself checked by a doctor.
Here are the seven symptoms you should never ignore:
1. Weight Loss: Unexplained weight loss should be taken seriously. If you notice that you have lost 5-10 pounds without trying and within a few months, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Let him or her know if you have noticed a change in bowel habits (constipation, diarrhea, change in stool color and consistency). It could be as simple as a thyroid problem. But it could also signify something more serious like cancer, a serious infection, or an autoimmune disorder like celiac disease.
2. Night Sweats: Night sweats can be common during menopause, and can also be a side effect of some medications like SSRIs used to treat depression and anxiety (ie. Zoloft and Lexapro). But the development of new night sweats warrants a trip to the doctor. Endocrine disorders (thyroid, adrenal, diabetes), infections (bone, heart, lungs, HIV), and some cancers (lymphoma) can cause sweating at night.
3. Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding: Women may experience abnormal vaginal bleeding throughout their lives. Abnormal vaginal bleeding is defined as bleeding when you are not expecting your period, bleeding that is heavier or lighter than is normal for you, or bleeding that occurs at an unexpected time like before age nine or after menopause. More often than not it is related to the hormone shifts of puberty or menopause, mid-cycle ovulation, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, oral contraceptive use, or an IUD (intra-uterine device). However, it can also be a sign of uterine fibroids, polyps, as well as cancer of the cervix, uterus, ovaries or vagina.
4. Worst Headache of Your Life: We have all had headaches, some worse than others. And many people suffer from migraines. But if you have the sudden onset of a headache that feels like “the worst headache of your life” or a “thunderclap” get to the emergency room. A stroke or brain hemorrhage can feel like this and serious complications/death can be prevented with prompt treatment.
5. Chest Discomfort/Heartburn: Heart disease is the #1 killer of both men and women in this country. More than all forms of cancer combined. Too often people dismiss or deny their symptoms of a heart problem and delay treatment that could save their heart. A heart attack can feel like a pressure or heaviness in your chest. This sensation may radiate down your arm or into your neck and jaw. It can be associated with shortness of breath. Many people describe what feels like heartburn that doesn’t go away. If you feel any of these symptoms, see your doctor right away. Time is of the essence in preserving heart function.
6. Shortness of Breath: Feeling short of breath can come on suddenly but it can also be more gradual and insidious. If you suddenly feel very short of breath go to a doctor or an emergency room. This could be a symptom of a blood clot in the lung, a heart attack or an infection. More gradual difficulty breathing should not be overlooked either. If you feel more winded with your daily activities, climbing stairs or going uphill, it’s time to pay a visit to your doctor. It may be as simple as being more out of shape. But it can also be a sign of heart disease, lung disease, infection/pneumonia or even cancer.
7. Sharp or Tearing Pain Between Your Shoulder Blades: While less common and usually harder to ignore, take this symptom very seriously. A sharp or tearing pain between your shoulder blades and sometimes in your upper abdomen or chest radiating to your back can be a symptom of an aortic dissection. This is a tear in the largest artery carrying blood away from your heart. If treated quickly it can be repaired.
Dr. Jennifer Haythe is a practicing Cardiologist as well as the Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, Co-Director for the Women’s Center for Cardiovascular Health, Director of the Adult Pulmonary Hypertension Center and Director of Cardiac Obstetric Service.
Born in New York City, and raised in both Stamford and Greenwich, Connecticut, Dr. Haythe used her competitiveness and determination as a horseback rider at Greenwich Academy to excel at academics as well. Never one to sit still for long, Dr. Haythe knew early on that a regular desk job would not work for her. Drawing on an early love of science and desire to help others made pursuing a career in the medical field a natural fit.
Dr. Haythe went earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and went on to complete her medical training and residency at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2003. Initially planning a career in Pulmonary Critical Care, Dr. Haythe decided to switch to Cardiology after speaking with her mentor Dr. Donna Mancini.
Upon completing a fellowship for congestive-heart failure-cardiac transplants in 2005 (under Dr. Mancini), and cardiovascular diseases fellowship in 2009, Dr. Haythe began practicing at Columbia University Medical Center. Her specialties include pulmonary hypertension, heart failure and cardiac transplant.
Despite Cardiology being a heavily male dominated medical field, Dr. Haythe has become a sought after specialist in New York City, with particular interest in both chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) and the care of pregnant women with cardiovascular diseases.
Dr. Haythe continues to find her own motivation and determination through the strong patient and family relationships she has forged, and the gratification of helping her patients get a new life with a heart transplant or assist devices, allowing patients to be able to live a full life with their families, as well as helping pregnant women safely deliver children and be able to care for them with post-delivery health care.
Dr. Haythe lives and practices in New York City. When not working, she enjoys an active lifestyle that includes running, boxing and yoga, as well as spending time with her husband, Eli and their two children.