Read Your Own Body Language: Lifesaving Tips from the Doctors on ABC's Hit Summer Series NY MED

Aug 13, 2012


Your body is a reflection of your health, and every day it sends out signals about how healthy or unhealthy you may be. If you can read the signs correctly, you will be better equipped to detect and prevent the onset of illness.

However, if you are like most people, you may be getting your signals crossed. The doctors of ABC's hit summer series NY MED are here to help.

These physicians and nurses are saving lives every day at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and they have a few body language lessons that should help keep you healthy.

Body Language 101

  • Aneurysms: If you experience the sudden onset of "the worst headache of your life," this could actually represent a brain hemorrhage or ruptured aneurysm. — Dr. Guy McKhann, neurological surgeon, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia.
  • Breast Cancer: Any sudden change in the appearance of your breast or nipple could be a sign of possible cancer. Check with your doctor if you see any dimpling of the skin or any retraction of the nipple. The best way to catch these changes is by doing self breast exams every month. — Dr. Mia Talmor, plastic surgeon specializing in breast reconstruction, Iris Cantor Women's Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.
  • Colon Cancer: It's easy to ignore the early warning signs of colon cancer, such as changes in bowel habits, blood in your stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, weakness or unexplained weight loss. The best way to prevent colon cancer is to get colonoscopies beginning at age 50 to remove benign polyps that may become cancerous, over time, if left in place. — Dr. Fabrizio Michelassi, chairman of surgery, gastrointestinal surgeon, at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.
  • Heart Attack/ Failure: If you are resting and suddenly feel a severe pain or extremely uncomfortable pressure in your chest, back, neck, left arm, or jaw, these are sure signs of a heart attack. Swollen legs, erectile dysfunction and trouble sleeping are all indicators of poor circulation and often spell heart failure. You may want to see your cardiologist to get to the root of the problem before trying to address the symptoms. — Dr. Hiroo Takayama, cardiothoracic surgeon, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia.
  • Heart Attacks in Women: If you feel pressure in your chest or shortness of breath when you are exerting yourself, see a doctor, but you should also consider nausea and excessive sweating as signs that there may be a problem with your heart. Women often ignore the warning signs of a heart attack, even though heart attacks are more fatal in women than in men. — Dr. Allan Stewart, director aortic surgery program, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia
  • Heart conditions in Children: Unusually long periods of shortness of breath after exercise, and fainting, especially after exercise, are signs that your child may have a heart condition. A pediatrician may also suspect a heart condition if a child suddenly develops a heart murmur or has unexplained hypertension. — Dr. Emile Bacha, pediatric cardiac surgeon, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia.
  • Liver Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, is a very silent disease that often does not have any obvious symptoms in the beginning. Once the condition has progressed to an advanced stage, you may experience yellowing of the eyes, vomiting blood, a tar- colored stool, abdominal bloating and feeling confused or disoriented. — Dr. Tomoaki Kato, chief of abdominal organ transplantation, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia.
  • Stroke: Mini-strokes are characterized by numbness or shaking of one part of your body; loss of your ability to speak; or an alteration in consciousness — Dr. Guy McKhann, neurological surgeon, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia.

If you do experience a medical emergency such as a heart attack, stroke or ruptured aneurysm, you want to head to the emergency room as quickly as possible. Here are a few tips from the NY Med emergency medicine team, Dr. Alexis Halpern and Dr. Debbie Yi, on preparing for the unexpected.

  • Keep a medication list in your wallet.
  • Bring your prescription and non-prescription medication bottles with you, even those of herbal medications.
  • Keep the names and phone numbers of your doctors with you.
  • If you have an abnormal ECG (electrocardiogram), keep a copy in your wallet at all times.
  • Bring an advocate, if possible, or someone to ask questions.
  • Write down your diagnosis and what tests were done. This information will be important in the future.

Doctors featured on the series: Dr. Michael Argenziano, Dr. Emile Bacha, Dr. Philip Barie, Dr. Jeffrey Bruce, Dr. Daniel Cherqui, Dr. Jean Emond, Dr. Maryjane Farr, Dr. Leonard Girardi, Dr. Alexis Halpern, Dr. Tomoaki Kato, Dr. Michael Kluger, Dr. Jonathan LaPook, Dr. Guy McKhann, Dr. Fabrizio Michelassi , Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Jan Quaegebeur, Dr. Rahul Sharma, Dr. Valeria Simone, Dr. Joshua Sonett, Dr. Jason Spector, Dr. Michael Stern, Dr. Allen Stewart, Dr. Hiroo Takayama ,Dr. Mia Talmor, Dr. Eleni Tousimis, Dr. Anthony Watkins, Dr. Mathew Williams, and Dr. Jonathan Yang

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, nonsectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, New York-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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