You have skin tags.
Are you dealing with unsightly and uncomfortable skin tags? If so, you might have your cholesterol to blame. According to Mark Menolascino, MD, a functional medicine doctor and author of Heart Solution for Women, certain skin growths—called xanthelasmata—are “related to abnormal cholesterol metabolism.” These yellowish skin tags are “especially a concern when seen around the eyes,” he says.
If you think that you have xanthelasmata, see your doctor and have your lipid levels checked. You’ll want to correct any underlying cholesterol-related problems before they lead to something that’s not just a cosmetic concern.
You’re getting wrinkles
As we age, our skin has a tendency to crease and lose elasticity. However, Dr. Eugene Charles, director of The Applied Kinesiology Center of New York and author of Journey To Healing: The Art and Science of Applied Kinesiology, notes that wrinkles can also be a silent sign of something that is in our control: a protein deficiency.
In fact, one 2007 analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that middle-aged women with especially wrinkled skin had a significantly lower protein intake than women without a wrinkled appearance.
You have chronic neck pain.
You might not even realize it, but sitting at your desk all day in a hunched posture can cause “back and neck pain as well as tight muscle knots,” explains Leon Turetsky, NASM-CPT, NASM-CES, a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist in the greater Boston area. Instead of slouching, make a conscious effort to sit up straight or, even better, invest in a standing desk that you can use to get off your feet every few hours.
Your fingernails are changing.
One of the surprising places where health problems manifest is your fingernails. “Changes in your fingernails and toes can be related to diet and bad habits like smoking,” says Peter Bidey, DO, assistant professor and vice-chair of family medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It can also be an early sign that problems are occurring with your circulation or other internal systems.”
You have indigestion.
Indigestion often occurs after a heavy lunch or even as the result of a bad bout of gas. But because indigestion is so common, people don’t think of it as a sign of something serious, even though it can be. “Indigestion could be an early sign of cardiac or other gastrointestinal problems,” says Bidey. “If indigestion persists or does not respond to common over-the-counter medications, you should seek out your medical care provider.”
You get frequent fungal infections.
According to the American Diabetes Association, skin complications like fungal infections are “sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes.” Why? Well, a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans—which can cause itchy rashes and blistering, scaly red areas—is to blame. Among diabetes patients, common fungal infections include everything from jock itch and athlete’s foot to ringworm and vaginal infections.
Your breath smells
Bad breath isn’t always a sign of an onion-filled lunch. Rather, it’s “often associated with gingivitis” or gum disease, says Joshua S. Yamamoto, MD, a cardiologist and co-author of You Can Prevent a Stroke. It might not seem like a big deal, but Yamamoto notes that “there is a correlation between poor gingival health and vascular inflammation,” which can lead to heart disease.
You’re losing weight unexpectedly.
Weight loss is only something to be celebrated when it is intentional. Otherwise, Yamamoto warns that “it can be associated with uncontrolled diabetes, heart failure, and cancer.”
Your ankles are swollen.
Many people find that their ankles are uncomfortably swollen after a long flight—and that’s perfectly normal. What’s not normal, however, is having swollen feet and ankles all day every day. “A heart that is not working well can fail to adequately circulate blood, and swollen feet and ankles can be an early sign of a failing heart,” warns Yamamoto.
Snoring isn’t just annoying. According to Yamamoto, it’s also potentially a not-so-silent sign of a serious health issue like sleep apnea. “It’s similar to being choked to death, only you don’t even wake up to know it’s happening,” Yamamoto explains. “This causes a variety of problems, especially in terms of heart disease.”
You’re always getting up to pee.
Believe it or not, one way to tell whether you’re struggling to breathe at night is by whether or not you wake up to go to the bathroom every few hours. One 2009 study published in the journal Sleep and Breathing quizzed sleep apnea patients and found that a staggering 84 percent reported frequent nighttime urination—as in, as often as six times per night.
So how does sleep apnea cause this nocturia, or nighttime urination? “Oxygen decreases, carbon dioxide increases, the blood becomes more acidic, the heart rate drops, and blood vessels in the lung constrict,” lead study author Mary Umlauf, PhD, explained to the American Sleep Apnea Association. “The body is alerted that something is very wrong. The sleeper must wake enough to reopen the airway. By this time, the heart is racing and experiences a false signal of fluid overload. The heart excretes a hormone-like protein that tells the body to get rid of sodium and water, resulting in nocturia.”
Your cuts never heal.
If it feels like your wounds are taking longer than they should to heal, it could be a silent sign of a vitamin D deficiency. One 2011 study published in the Journal of Dental Research measured how long it took for patients to recover after a dental procedure and found that vitamin D deficiency “negatively [affected] treatment outcomes for up to one year.”
You’re experiencing erectile dysfunction.
Sometimes erectile dysfunction is simply an unfortunate side effect of growing older—and other times, it means that something is wrong with your heart. According to the Mayo Clinic, when the inner lining of the blood vessels fails to function properly (which is called endothelial dysfunction), blood cannot reach the penis, so this sexual impairment could be linked to heart disease. One 2013 analysis published in the journal Clinics even found that the worse a patient’s cardiovascular disease, the more severe their sexual dysfunction.
You sweat profusely.
Profuse sweating, when it’s not happening after a particularly intense gym session, could be an indication of heart disease. In one 2018 study published in the journal Circulation, scientists analyzed data on more than 2,000 heart attack patients and found that nearly 54 percent of them had experienced profuse sweating as a symptom of their condition.
You have night sweats.
Many medications—such as those used to treat depression and those used to treat diabetes—can cause uncomfortable night sweats. If you aren’t taking any medications, though, then the Mayo Clinic warns that this uncomfortable overnight moistness could be signaling anything from leukemia to tuberculosis.
Your vision suddenly changes.
People of all ages and genders suffer from poor vision that requires correction. But while it’s unfortunately normal for our eyes to slowly deteriorate, you should be slightly more concerned if your vision changes suddenly out of the blue.
“Sudden vision changes could indicate a wide range of issues including macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease, vascular occlusions in the eye, retinal detachment, acute glaucoma, and more,” says Wang. “Patients should seek the care of an eye doctor immediately with any sudden vision change.”
Your eyes are dry.
People with allergies—especially seasonal ones—are all too familiar with the feeling of dry eyes. However, if you have no known allergies and find yourself experiencing dry eyes nonetheless, this may be because of hepatitis C. In one 2007 study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, scientists found that 50 percent of hepatitis C patients had decreased tear production. “Dry eye syndrome is the most frequently observed ocular feature in [hepatitis C] infection,” the study authors concluded.
People tend to brush nausea off as a sign of a rotten lunch or even just nerves. However, you should think twice about ignoring this stomach pain, as the Parkinson’s Foundation warns that it could be a symptom of the disease.
“Difficulty swallowing, feelings of nausea, and constipation are all common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD),” notes the foundation. “The same brain changes in PD that cause stiffness and slow movement also affect the muscles involved in swallowing and in pushing food through the digestive system.”