"Your body flashes signals -- symptoms and signs -- that warn you of potential problems," say Neil Shulman, MD, Jack Birge, MD, and Joon Ahn, MD. The three Georgia-based doctors are the authors of the recently revised book Your Body's Red Light Warning Signals.

Fortunately, many symptoms turn out not to be serious. For example, the majority of headaches stem from stress, eyestrain, lack of sleep, dehydration, caffeine withdrawal, and other mundane causes.

Here are six important flashing signals.

1. Paralysis of the arms or legs, tingling, numbness, confusion, dizziness, double vision, slurred speech, trouble finding words, or weakness, especially on one side of the face or body.
These are signs of stroke -- or a "brain attack" -- in which arteries that supply oxygen to the brain become blocked or rupture, causing brain tissue to die.

2.Chest pain or discomfort; pain in the arm, jaw, or neck; breaking out in a cold sweat; extreme weakness; nausea; vomiting; feeling faint; or being short of breath.

These are signs of heart attack. If you get some of these symptoms, call 911 immediately and go to the emergency room by ambulance. Shulman and Birge also recommend that patients chew one regular, full-strength aspirin (unless they're allergic to aspirin) to help prevent damage to the heart muscle during a heart attack.

3.Tenderness and pain in the back of your lower leg, chest pain, shortness of breath, or coughing up blood.

These are symptoms of a potentially dangerous blood clot in your leg, especially if they come after you've been sitting for a long time, such as on an airplane or during a long car trip. These signs can also surface if you've been bedridden after surgery.

4.Blood in the urine without accompanying pain.
Kidney stones or a bladder or prostate infection are common causes of blood in the urine. But these problems are usually painful or uncomfortable, which sends people to the doctor promptly.

5.Asthma symptoms that don't improve or get worse.

Asthma attacks are marked by wheezing or difficulty breathing. When an attack doesn't improve or worsens, a patient should get emergency care.

6.Depression and suicidal thoughts.

Few people would put up with crushing chest pain or extreme shortness of breath, but many endure depression, even though at its extreme it can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of depression include sadness, fatigue, apathy, anxiety, changes in sleep habits, and loss of appetite. Depression can be treated with medications and psychotherapy.
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