So you're sleepy a lot and maybe a little blue, and your blood pressure is on the high side. It could be stress, or these and other common symptoms could be signs of serious medical conditions that doctors sometimes overlook.
My grandmother Ima would always have something baking in the oven every time
I came home from school. My favorite treat was a pastry with generous portions
of butter, sugar, and cheese. What I would give to have another whiff of that
homemade marvel and to have Ima hand me my warm afternoon snack.
Ima passed away a few years ago from complications related to Parkinson's
disease. Family and friends didn't know she had the disorder until it was too
late. I wonder if it could have been better managed had we known about the
ailment. Of course, there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, and treatment
strategies are simply geared toward relieving symptoms. Still, I wonder, as
loved ones do, if something could have been done to give us more time with
From its first year of publication, GH has urged readers to live healthfully
— to take "a walk before breakfast" (1885), "eat more fish" (1932), and get "at
least eight hours of sleep" (1933). The tips here, whether from our early days
or fresh from the latest journals, have one thing in common: They are based on
the best expertise of their time.
Guesswork may not bring people back into our lives, but awareness and action
could possibly help us and loved ones live healthier days. How important is
diagnosing a disease before it's too late to change its course? For example,
wouldn't it help to know you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol
before your first heart attack?
To help in the timely and proper diagnosis of illnesses, patients need to be
active advocates for themselves, says Mary Frank, MD, president of the American
Academy of Family Physicians and a practicing family doctor in Rohnert Park,
Calif. She says it's important to be direct and honest with doctors. This open
communication helps screen for diseases.
"A lot of times patients are embarrassed about things, like, for
example, when they snore," says Frank. "That could be nothing, or that
could be a symptom of a problem like sleep apnea. No need to be embarrassed.
Doctors hear those things all the time."
Sometime patients minimize symptoms. They may visit a physician and report
they've been feeling tired, but then brush it off by saying 'Oh, but I've been
working long hours.' Minimizing symptoms can hinder or delay a doctor's effort
to find out the truth. Even if a person is certain of the cause of the symptom,
if it's affecting your life, it's worth bringing up, says Frank. In the case of
fatigue, it is a symptom of many ailments, including chronic kidney disease,
depression, and underactive thyroid.
It also helps to educate yourself on various health issues. Frank says the
availability of medical information in the media can help people start a
dialogue with their doctors.
To further promote a dialogue between patients and doctors, WebMD has put
together information about five conditions that are commonly underdiagnosed.
This compilation is by no means exclusive, but it does bring up possible
reasons why some illnesses aren't recognized earlier. A greater understanding
and consciousness of these disorders could perhaps sooner identify some health
problems before they become life-threatening conditions.