SPECIAL FROM Grandparents.com
We’re always being told to watch out for symptoms. It can be a lifesaver to know the warning signs of a stroke or heart attack, or to get a suspicious mole checked out to protect against melanoma. But not all scary symptoms are really…symptoms. Some are just harmless signs of our bodies and minds getting a little older, or just odd quirks that can happen at any age.
“It’s about context,” says geriatrician Maryjo L. Cleveland, M.D., medical director of the Seniors Institute at Summa Health Systems in Akron, Ohio. “When you’re 25, and stressed, and you park at 7:30 a.m. and then at 5 you can’t find your car, you don’t think, ‘Oh my god, I’m getting dementia!’ But when you’re 65, that might be the first thing you think.”
If something is bothering you, it’s always a good idea to get it checked out by your doctor. “Most symptoms will turn out to be insignificant, but without input from a medical professional, it’s virtually impossible to separate the significant from the insignificant,” says internist Charles Cutler, M.D., chair of the Board of Regents of the American College of Physicians. “Plus, nothing is better for the psyche than hearing, ‘The tests are normal.’”
Knowing when to ignore body quirks and when to get them checked out by your doctor is as much an art as a science. “There are patients I see, and I say to them, ‘I just saw you for this two months ago, why are you back?’”, says Dr. Cleveland. “Others go two years with a problem before they come to me, and I say, ‘Why didn’t you come in earlier?’”