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Heart Disease Health Center

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7 Pains You Shouldn't Ignore

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A Bad Headache

Your head feels like it’s splitting open, and nothing in your medicine cabinet is helping. What could it mean?

“Most people worry that it's a brain tumor,” says Gretchen E. Tietjen, MD. She’s chair of neurology at the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio.

But chances are, it’s not. “A lot of the brain doesn't have nerve endings,” Tietjen says. “So most headaches are going to be caused by something else.”

It’s not common, but bad pain in the brain can be a symptom of a stroke or blood clot. These are the key signs to watch:

  • Other symptoms like stiff neck, fever, confusion, weakness, or numbness
  • Pain like you’ve never felt before
  • Throwing up
  • Fainting

Other clues your headache’s not normal:

  • It gets worse when you stand up
  • The pain gets worse over time, and meds aren’t helping
  • You have a family history of certain conditions

Tietjen says your doctor will also want to know if your headache came out of nowhere.

“If all of a sudden, bam!, you’re hit with severe pain, it might be what’s known as a ‘thunderclap headache,’” Tietjen says. “You could be having an aneurysm, and you should go to the emergency room right away.”

Lower Back Pain

Believe it or not, this could be a symptom of heart disease. Your doctor can best decide if that’s the case.

“We’d want to know your risk factors,” Taub says. “Do you have diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity? And on top of that, are you having these symptoms with activity or with exertion? All of these are risk factors for heart disease.”

Often, back pain comes from normal wear and tear on your muscles. But in serious cases, it can also be a sign of these conditions:

  • Infection     
  • Tumor
  • Ruptured disc
  • Kidney stones

You can also have back pain just before an aortic dissection. That’s when the main blood vessel to the middle and lower parts of your body bursts. It’s a very serious problem. See a doctor right away for your bad back pain if blood vessel problems run in your family.

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