60-Second Health Checks


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
60-Second Health Checks

Got a minute? That’s all you need to learn a surprising amount about your health with these at-home self exams.
[h=2]Look at Your Hairbrush[/h]Why do it: Check for thyroid disorders, deficiencies, and more.

Deficiencies of zinc, iron, or biotin can all cause hair loss. Another culprit: a thyroid disorder. If you recently had a baby or experienced another significant hormonal change, such as going off the pill, hair loss for up to three months afterward may be part of the fallout.

How to do it: If you notice more hairs in the bathroom sink or in your hairbrush than what seems typical for you, count them. Losing 100 hairs a day is normal. If you’re finding more than 200, or if the hair comes out in clumps that leave bare spots on your scalp, immediately make an appointment with your physician.
[h=2]Peer Into the Whites of Your Eyes[/h]Why do it: Check for allergies, herpes, infection, and more.

If the whites of your eyes suddenly have a yellow cast, it could be that you’ve spent too much time in the sun without wearing protective sunglasses. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation causes a thickening of the clear membrane covering the whites of your eyes.

More commonly, your eyes may look red. This is caused by blood vessels near the surface of the eye becoming enlarged and dilated. Red eyes could be a symptom of any several dozen issues. Many are relatively benign, such as not sleeping well the night before, or having an eyelash hair or small foreign object find its way into your eye. Red eyes could also be a sign of allergies, colds, flu, dry eyes, or a herpes outbreak. Or they could be a symptom of an infection such as pink eye, the familiar name for conjunctivitis, a highly contagious bacterial infection. In rare cases, it could indicate a more serious eye disease or injury.

How to do it: Look in the mirror and focus on the whites of your eyes. For the first few days try to get a sense of any minor day-to-day variations; then keep a look out for more significant changes. Generally if you have clear white eyes, it’s a good indication that you are resting well and are keeping everyday hassles like colds and allergies at bay.
[h=2]Blow Your Nose[/h]Why do it: Check for allergies, defects, and more.

The normal, healthy way to breathe is through your nose, which means its normal, healthy state is clear of obstructions. Even minor congestion is indicative of a problem, be it allergies, a cold, sinusitis, or perhaps a basic structural defect. Many of us live with clogged noses, but we shouldn’t. Even if you’re still able to breathe comfortably, when your nose is 30 percent clogged, that means you’re taking in 30 percent less oxygen with each breath, and you have to breathe faster to keep up with your body’s oxygen needs. This is less healthy than taking long, deep, clear breaths.

How to do it: Hold a tissue to your nose and blow. If nothing comes out, fantastic. If clear liquid comes out, it could mean allergies, an emerging cold—or a too-cold home. Keep an eye out for other symptoms. Yellow or green fluid indicates an infection. And if solid stuff comes out, relax. Your nose is in large part a filtering system; it’s perfectly normal for inhaled matter to coagulate inside, forming you-know-whatties.
[h=2]Examine Your Fingernails[/h]Why do it: Check for skin cancer, kidney disease, fungus, and more.

The natural state of your nails should be strong, clean, and clear. Any significant variation from that is symptomatic of something deeper going on. What exactly? It’s hard to say; one health website we consulted listed more than 300 health problems for which nail problems are a symptom. Most prominent: deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, or protein; anemia; thyroid problems; hormonal imbalances; and psoriasis. But then again, weak nails could be the result of washing too many dishes.

How to do it: Look at each nail and take notice of any discoloration. A smattering of white spots might necessitate a meeting with your manicurist, not necessarily the doctor (it’s probably trauma, from slamming a finger in a drawer or door). But if you notice a linear streak that runs from the nail into the cuticle, it could be melanoma (skin cancer) and you should have it examined. If a brownish discoloration is under the nail bed, it’s probably caused by a fungus, which can be treated with prescription medication. Another anomaly: Nails that are dusky white starting about halfway down the nail bed and darker near the tip, which can be a sign of kidney disease.
[h=2]Focus on Your Floss[/h]Why do it: Check for heart disease, infection, and more.

If you’re following your dentist’s orders, you floss every day to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. But if you’ve noticed that flossing is causing your gums to bleed, it’s not a sign that you should stop. It’s the opposite: Bleeding gums can be a sign that you have a bacterial infection that flossing will help get rid of. Research confirms that inflamed, infected gums are linked to heart disease, because chronic inflammation triggers the creation of immune-system chemicals in your bloodstream that contribute to the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries.

How to do it: Aggressive flossing can cause bleeding, so make sure you are flossing properly. Wind an 18-inch piece of floss around the middle fingers of each hand. Pinch the floss between thumbs and index fingers, leaving 1 or 2 inches in between. Use your thumbs to gently guide the floss between your teeth, then move up and down using a zigzag motion. Don’t snap the floss between your teeth.
[h=2]Peek at Your Pee[/h]Why do it: Check for infection, liver disease, and more.

Normal urine is clear or a light shade of yellow. A few foods (as well as vitamin B supplements) can change it to a different color, but most of the time your urine shouldn’t vary much. What you’re really looking for is a sudden darkening. Dark yellow urine, or urine that looks blood-tinged, can signal dehydration or a urinary tract infection (UTI). It can also be a sign of liver disease. Bloody urine can also mean anything from kidney stones to bladder cancer. So if your urine is dark, don’t chug water or cranberry juice and ignore it; have your doctor check it right away.

How to do it: Take note of the hue of your urine. If it’s pale yellow most days and then suddenly green or pink or brown for several days in a row, even though you know you’re drinking plenty of fluids, let your physician know.

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