Listening to your body could save your life

October 28, 2009 Lumps in the breast could mean breast cancer. A dark spot on your skin may mean melanoma. That spare tire around your mid-section could put you at risk for heart disease. But other not-so-obvious changes in the body could also be signaling something more serious.

After traveling the world with his wife, Les Duncan Thought he had a clean bill of health.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

"I had an excruciating headache. I was more nauseous than I've ever been in my entire life," said Duncan, an author.

His doctor at the time said nothing was wrong. Duncan knew better.

"I think the biggest mistake people make is not listening to their body," Duncan said.

Some body signs could be signaling a bigger issue.

What does it mean if all of a sudden you go gray? It could mean thyroid disease or a vitamin B12 deficiency.

What about varicose veins?

Varicose veins put you at a higher risk for a Potentially fatal blood clot or deep vein thrombosis. Warning signs of diabetes: bleeding gums, tingling feet or a rash. After pushing his doctors, Duncan found out he had a genetic condition that puts him at risk for brain hemorrhaging.

"He was very proactive about things, and he became very knowledgeable about what he had," said Jonathan White, MD, neurosurgeon, University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas.

Listening to his body may be what saved his life. After his first episode, he noticed putting pressure on one side of his head made him feel better.

"When I began treatment, the doctors told me that lying on the right side of my head probably applied the pressure needed to stop the bleeding and probably save my life," Duncan said.

A hero to himself, now he can get back to more important things, like planning his next trip.

Duncan says he also craved foods like spinach, broccoli and asparagus. He found out later those are foods rich in vitamin K, which promote clotting.

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