To keep yourself ready and safe, here are some health warning signs to watch for:
1. Persistent swelling / puffiness in your feet, hands, or face
Have you ever felt like your feet are swelling to the point your shoes hurt? Or that your face looks unusually puffy on certain days?
It might be nothing, but it’s worth getting it checked out. This is because constant swelling in your extremities may be a form of water retention, which is associated with kidney problems. It also tends to happen with diabetes, which can result in swelling in the feet and ankles. Diabetes is one of the faster growing health issues in Singapore, but its symptoms can be mitigated with early detection, and lifestyle changes.
2. Loud snoring, and constantly waking up in the middle of sleep
These could be signs of sleep apnea, which is a serious condition if left untreated for long periods. It’s caused by obstruction in the airways when sleeping, which can be caused for a number of reasons.
While it seems minor at first, sleep apnea is also associated with conditions like Type 2 diabetes, liver problems, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Over a prolonged period, it can also interfere with work and your quality of life, as you’re not able to rest well.
3. Numbness in arm (particularly left arm)
If you can’t feel your left arm, except for a tingling, this can be a sign of heart trouble.
During a heart attack or stroke, arteries become damaged or blocked - this can prevent proper blood circulation, thus causing the sensation of numbness or weakness. It is commonly reported in the left arm, although you should be wary even if it happens elsewhere.
This sort of numbness, accompanied by shortness of breath or a cold sweat, can indicate a heart attack is in progress; so don’t hesitate to call an ambulance. Unlike what you may have seen in movies, heart attacks don’t always involve sharp pains in the chest.
Heart disease is the third most common cause of death in Singapore, just behind pneumonia and various forms of cancer.
4. Sudden weight loss (without deliberate effort)
If you’re suddenly losing weight, without any effort at dieting or exercising, you should see a doctor. This is especially true if you also experience symptoms like loss of appetite, constant tiredness, or nausea.
Unexplained weight loss can be an indicator of many conditions, including cancer, heart trouble, or diseases that you may have contracted (note that some sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV / AIDS, can cause unexplained weight loss).
5. Weird skin rashes of discolourations
It may be nothing, like a small insect bite; but it can also indicate a more serious problem. The main worry here is skin cancer: unusual bumps, scaly surfaces, or lesions can be indicative of developing cancer. If these are spotted early on, there is a high success rate in treatment.
Diabetes also causes skin conditions, and some can be a sign of pre-diabetes. For example, high blood sugar levels can cause rashes, or dark patches of skin to form.
Even if it turns out to be nothing, you’ll be doing yourself a favour, as you’ll be much more comfortable (no one wants to itch or have flaky skin, surely).
6. Constant headaches or migraines
Some people are, unfortunately, naturally susceptible to migraines. However, in others, it may be caused by unusually high blood pressure, or the narrowing of veins and arteries around the scalp area. This can be indicative of heart problems.
In fact, studies have shown that people with chronic migraines and headaches are about twice as likely to suffer from heart attack or stroke. In some cases, the headache may also be caused by other underlying heart conditions, such as heart palpitations.
Even if turns out to be unrelated to your heart, your doctor can at least prescribe something to make getting through it easier.
You’ll notice that some conditions seem to be repeated
This is because cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and - increasingly - diabetes are the most common killers in Singapore. This is why, when buying critical illness insurance, it’s important to cover all of these major conditions.