Between 1994 and 2004, deaths due to cardiovascular disease declined by 8 percent, and from 1995 to 2001, the overall cancer survival rate improved by 15 percent. These medical victories owe much to a greater public awareness of warning signs, and consequently, earlier diagnoses. Therefore, one of the best contributions you can make to the cause is to listen carefully to what your body is telling you. Any sudden and noticeable changes should be brought to the attention of a doctor as soon as possible. They may be nothing serious, but it's much better that you address them, just to be safe. Here, five symptoms you should never disregard:

Severe headaches. From time to time, a headache happens, usually signaling nothing more than stress, allergies, or a sinus infection. But when headaches are sudden, severe, and remarkably different than any other you've had before, you may have cause for concern. Also, if they're coupled with a stiff neck, fever, convulsions, or confusion, you should make an appointment with your doctor to make sure they're not indicative of a more serious problem like meningitis, hypertension, stroke, or a brain tumor. 

Weight loss or gain. Losing weight with no apparent effort on your part may seem like a blessing, but because cancer cells consume a large amount of the body's energy supply, many forms of the disease involve sudden weight loss, accompanied by symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and fever. Diabetes, pernicious anemia, and hyperthyroidism are among other illnesses that can cause weight loss.  If you encounter the opposite problem-sudden weight gain-it may stem from hypothyroidism or kidney disease. Therefore, contacting a doctor immediately is crucial.

Slow-healing abrasions and recurrent infections. A superficial wound that is not infected but takes more than a few weeks to heal could indicate diabetes, since an elevated blood sugar level can interfere with the body's natural healing process. Persistent mouth sores could signify oral cancer, and repeated yeast infections (four or more a year) can suggest an immunosuppressive disorder such as HIV or AIDS.  Further tests by a doctor can help determine the cause of the problem. 

Hot, red, or swollen joints. Swelling, especially during the summer, is common. It should be cause for concern, however, if it's affecting the joint and accompanied by redness, heat, and pain. These symptoms may point to an infection, which requires immediate treatment to prevent the dangerous spread of bacteria.

Intense pain. As you get older, minor aches can become more frequent and bothersome, but usually not worrisome. Sharp, chronic pain, on the other hand, should definitely set off alarm bells. Even diffuse pain might foreshadow a potentially life-threatening condition such as a heart attack or appendicitis. If the pain reaches the point of debilitation, it goes without saying that you should seek medical attention immediately.