20 June 2012
Seven DIY health checks that help detect thyroid, stiff arteries and other life–threatening ailments
Forget about the scales –
working out whether your weight is a health is sueornot is better done with the help of a trusty tape measure, a new study has found. Scientists found that a person’s waist measurement should be no more than halft heir height to e healthy. When they analysed the health of 300,000 people they found conditions such as heart disease and diabetes were much lower when the ratio held true.
It means that for a 5ft 4in (64 inch) woman, the waist measurement to a imforis no more than 32 inches.And if you’re a 6 ft (72 inch) tall man a healthy waist measurement is no greater than 36 inches.
Measuring yourself is easy and it is absolutely free, so what other health checks can you do at home without nyspecialequipment? Herearesome essential ones to try:
DIY TEST: CHECK YOUR REFLEXES
An underactive thyroid slows down all the body’s processes, including the reflexes. To check yours, sit on the edge of a table so your legs swing freely, and tap sharply on the stiff tendon running between the bottom ofyourkneecapandthetopofyourleg bone. A normal response is for the lower leg to kick immediately, but if that response is delayed – or particularly if the leg sinks only slowly back to its former position, you nay be producing too little thyroid hormone. See your GP for a blood test if you’re tired, feeling the cold and putting on weight, too.
OVERACTIVE THYROID DIY TEST: CHECK FOR TREMBLING HANDS
Having shaky hands, particularly if you’re less than 40 years old, can be a symptom of an overactive thyroid. To check for tremors, place a piece of A4 paper on the back of an outstretched hand — a little movement of the paper is normal, but a pronounced wobble means you should go and get your thyroid checked out, particularly if you’ve also been losing weight without meaning to.
STIFF ARTERIES DIY TEST: TRY TO TOUCH YOUR TOES
Testing for stiffness of the arteries – which can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease – usually needs high–tech equipment, but a study done at the University of North Texasfoundthatasimplesitandreach test is a good predictor of artery flexibility in middle-aged and older people.
To do the test, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, toespointedtowardstheceiling.Bend forward from your hips, stretching your arms toward your feet. If you can’t get near your toes you may be at an increased risk of arterial stiffness and should get your blood pressure checked. Exercises such as yoga and Pilates might also help your arteries.
ANAEMIA DIY TEST: PRESS ON YOUR NAILS Only about 55 per cent of people with anaemia are pale. A lesser known, but much more accurate predictor of anaemia – which means you’re iron deficient – is to press down firmly on the nail bed, whilst the hand is being held above the heart. If it takes more than two seconds for the blood (i.e. thepinkcolour)toreturntoyournails after you have released the pressure, it’s a sign of anaemia, especially if you’re having symptoms like fatigue and poor concentration.
DIY TEST: LOOK UPWARDS
Weak eye muscles can be an early sign of a condition called myasthenia gravis, which affects how the nerves make the muscles contract. While you’re sitting comfortably in a chair, facing forward, look upwards towards the ceiling without moving your head. If you have the condition you won’tbeabletodothisformorethana minute or two without your eyelids drooping.
DIY TEST: BLOW OUT A MATCH
If your lung capacity is normal you should be able to pass the match test. To do this, light a match in a draft–free room, let it burn halfway, hold it six inches from your mouth, and try to blow it out with your mouth wide open. People with lung conditions such as emphysema or chronic bronchitiswon’tbeableto,soseeyourGPif you can’t.
INCREASED STROKE RISK
DIY TEST: TAP OUT YOUR HEARTBEAT
If you have untreated atrial fibrillation(AF)–whereyourheartbeatsout of rhythm – you’re five times more likely to have a stroke. To check for AF, America’s National Stroke Association recommends you tap your foot to the rhythm of your pulse (find it by placing two fingers on your wrist) for one minute. If your foot is tapping steadily, like a clock ticking, you’re okay – if it is uneven, seek medica l advice. In studies, this test alerted doctors to over 90 per cent of people with AF.