Even if you keep yourself in good nick by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet, it’s still worth taking a the time to check your vitals every once in a while. This doesn’t have to involve visiting a doctor for a full battery of tests – you can do it yourself in just a few minutes by using these five quick checks provided by Dr Christian Jessen from Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies. Jessen’s helping to raise awareness of two conditions the checks below cover, Dupuytren’s Contracture and Peyronie’s disease.
“While the checks don’t cover every condition and symptom out there, it will get you into the habit of taking the time to assess your physical health and help you be aware of any changes that should prompt a visit to the GP,” says Jessen.
1. Check your pulse
Checking your pulse isn’t something most of us make a habit of doing, but your resting pulse rate can be an indication of your overall heart health. It’s measured in beats per minute (bpm). Most people have a heart rate in the range 60-100bpm, with lower heart rates associated with higher levels of fitness – athletes can have bpm counts of 40-60. But if you have a bpm count outside of the 60-100 range, and if you experience regular bouts of dizziness or shortness of breath, you should see a GP.
To take your resting heart rate:
- Make sure you’re relaxed – it won’t be accurate if you’ve just finished exercising or just drunk a large coffee!
- Hold out one of your hands with the palm facing upwards.
- Press the index and middle finger of your other hand lightly onto the inside of the first hand’s wrist. You’ll find your pulse at the base of your thumb.
- Count the number of beats you feel in 60 seconds, or do it for 30 and double your answer, to find out your bpm.
2. Look into your eyes
Your eyes can give a great indication of your overall health. Head to a mirror and gently pull down your lower eyelid. If the white of your eye is looking yellow in colour, this could indicate a vitamin deficiency or more serious condition such as jaundice, which can be caused by liver disease.
Next, look directly at the iris of your eye (that’s the coloured bit): if you notice a white or grey ring surrounding the iris, you might have problematic cholesterol levels.
Finally, take step back and look at yourself in the mirror. Do you notice any blurring? While it may just mean you’re due a visit to the opticians, blurred vision can also be a symptom of diabetes, particularly if you’re also feeling thirsty, tired or are peeing more than usual.
If you notice any of these symptoms book a GP appointment straight away.
3. Open wide
Your mouth also has a lot to say when it comes to your body’s health. Wet your mouth and move your tongue around inside – do you get a metallic taste? It could be due to medication if you’re taking any, but it could also suggest gum disease or even zinc deficiency. Persistent metallic tastes in the mouth should be investigated by a doctor.
Don’t ignore ongoing bad breath either. One simple way to find out whether you’ve got bad breath is to lick the inside of your wrist, wait a couple of seconds and then give it a sniff. Persistent bad breath is an indicator of many conditions, from gastrointestinal conditions to diabetes, so raise your concerns with your doctor.
4. Look at your hands
We don’t tend to give much attention to our hands, but there are commons conditions which, if left untreated, can seriously affect your mobility and movement. To check that there’s no cause for concern, stretch both hands in front of you, palms facing up. Bend all your digits in towards your palm to make a fist, then stretch them out again. Did you have any problems straightening the fingers? If so, it could be a sign of Dupuytren’s Contracture, a common condition which sees the fingers curl permanently in towards the palm.
Next, run your fingers across the skin of your palms. If you feel any lumps or pitting of the skin, these too could be signs of Dupuytren’s. Treatments are available, but are more effective if the condition is caught early, so get straight down to the GP surgery if you spot any of these signs.
5. Check your penis
Men are reluctant to go to the doctor at the best of times and when it comes to issues below the belt we become even more reticent, but it’s essential that we know what’s normal when it comes to our genitals and even more important that we seek medical advice if things start to change.
While more men than ever are checking themselves for signs of testicular cancer thanks to some great campaigns, there are lesser-known conditions that you should also be aware of. One thought to affect up to 7% of the global male population is Peyronie’s Disease. It’s a condition that causes your penis to bend when you get an erection. Not surprisingly it can make sex painful and sometimes impossible. So if you notice your penis bending more than usual – a slight curve is perfectly normal – or you can feel any lumps on the shaft of your penis, which could be the build-up of scar tissue causing the bend, then you know what to do. Take your concerns straight to your GP. You can find more information at thisispeyronies.co.uk.