Seven Do-It-Yourself Health Checks

Here are seven Do-It-Yourself (DIY) health checks that help detect thyroid, stiff arteries and other life-threatening ailments

Scientists found that a person’s waist measurement should be no more than half their height to be 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 aim for is 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. Here are some other essential health checks you can do at home without any special equipment:

1. Underactive thyroid

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 of your kneecap and the top of your leg 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 may 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 Texas found that a simple sit and reach 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, toes pointed towards the ceiling. 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.

4. 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. the pink colour) to return to your nails after you have released the pressure, it’s a sign of anaemia, especially if you’re having symptoms like fatigue and poor concentration.

5. Muscle weakness

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’t be able to do this for more than a minute or two without your eyelids drooping.

6. Lung problems

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 bronchitis won’t be able to, so see your GP if you can’t.

7. Increased stroke risk

DIY test: Tap out your heartbeat

If you have untreated atrial fibrillation (AF) — where your heart beats out 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 medical advice. In studies, this test alerted doctors to over 90 per cent of people with AF.

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