Broaden your knowledge on money and insurance matters with our specially written and curated articles.

Hidden Signs And Symptoms Of Critical Illnesses To Look Out For

02 Sep 2021
Spongebob is worried because he does not have Gibraltar BSN insurance

Millions of Malaysian adults are living with chronic, potentially deadly conditions that they don’t even know they have. Some of these diseases can develop with no warning signs, and some of the symptoms can be too subtle to notice until the disease has become advanced.

Cat is warning about the dangers of not having insurance like Gibraltar BSN insurance

Source: Quick Meme

A common ailment might be more serious than you think. Be aware of these warning signs that are hiding in plain sight for 5 of the most common critical illnesses in Malaysia:

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition that develops when cholesterol builds up on the coronary artery walls, causing them to become stiff and narrow. When this happens, the blood flow to your heart muscle slows down, and your heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood.  

CAD can potentially lead to a heart attack and other types of heart disease, including heart failure. And while there are obvious signs and symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, there are other hidden, lesser-known ones to be aware of as well. These include:   

  • Pain or discomfort in the back, jaw, neck, arms or shoulders
  • Sweating even while at rest
  • Fluid retention (swollen legs and ankles)
  • Dizziness
  • Reduced tolerance to exercise
  • Constant lack of energy
  • Memory loss

Silent Stroke

A stroke happens when part of your brain loses its blood supply due to a blocked or ruptured blood vessel.

Classic signs and symptoms of a stroke include face drooping, speech difficulty and sudden numbness on one side of the body. But there are also “silent strokes” or “mini strokes” - strokes that are so subtle that the signs and symptoms go unnoticed. These are actually more common than a full-blown stroke but are harder to recognise as it affects less functional areas of the brain which do not support speech or movement.

Silent strokes are often discovered by accident during an MRI or CT scan for other suspected conditions, where doctors notice that small areas of the brain have been damaged. 

If you have a silent stroke that’s undiagnosed, you may begin to have trouble remembering things or concentrating as over time, the repeated injury to your brain can result in significant cognitive decline and may even be fatal.    

Signs and symptoms of a silent stroke, which are so subtle that they are often mistaken for signs of ageing include:

  • Sudden lack of balance 
  • Temporary loss of basic muscle movement 
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Sudden mood or personality changes


Cancer refers to a group of over 100 different diseases characterised by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body.  

Obvious signs and symptoms that require medical attention include a lump that suddenly appears on your body, unexplained bleeding and swollen lymph nodes. But there are many other signs and symptoms that often get mistaken for other health conditions instead of cancer, as they are not specific to the disease. These include:  

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Chronic coughing
  • Changes in bowel movements


Diabetes is a chronic disease that causes abnormally high blood sugar levels in your body, which over time can negatively affect your cardiovascular system, eyesight and kidney function.

Constant thirst, excessive urination, sudden weight gain or loss are among the more well-known signs and symptoms of diabetes. But there are also other, more sneaky ones that can be easily missed, and these tend to be in the very early stages of the disease. They include:  

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent yeast infections
  • Dark patches of skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tingling sensation in the hands and feet

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Your kidneys filter excess fluid and waste from your blood. If you develop CKD, your kidneys will slowly stop functioning and if it’s not treated, the disease will progress to end stage kidney disease, also known as kidney failure. At this point, your kidneys can no longer function on their own and you will need dialysis or a kidney transplant.  

The early signs and symptoms of CKD are often so subtle that many people don't realise there is an issue with these vital organs until it's too late. 

Kidney issues can manifest in some surprising ways, including:  

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Shortness of breath

Don’t take your health for granted. Be sure to schedule yearly health checks, because early detection is the only way to prevent an illness or stop it from getting worse. This is especially important if you have a family history of one or more of these diseases, as your chances of contracting that disease(s) are likely to be higher. 

It’s also strongly recommended to safeguard your health further with a comprehensive critical illness plan to protect yourself against escalating medical costs. Gibraltar BSN’s GoXtra Care offers up to 350% of the coverage amount against 5 different critical illness groups.