Monitor your health at home with these quick and easy tests and checks.
While serious issues should be assessed by a doctor, there are quick and easy checks you can do in the comfort of your home that could help you take better care of your health, or alert you to potential problems.
These simple DIY tests could help you improve:
Risk of stroke and dementia
Balance on one leg and time yourself. You should be able to remain balanced in this pose for at least 20 seconds. If you find this impossible, you may want to visit a doctor, as unstable posture could be a warning sign of a micro-bleed or silent stroke, both of which increase the risk of stroke and dementia.
Cover one eye and look at horizontal and vertical lines wherever you find them – doorways, window frames or fences will do. Repeat with the other eye. If the lines appear distorted instead of straight, there’s a chance of macular degeneration. Book an appointment with an optometrist for an eye test.
Cover one ear with your hand and ask someone to whisper a short, random combination of letters and numbers into that ear from a short distance away. If you can repeat their whisper back accurately, your hearing’s probably fine. However, if you couldn’t hear them at all, you need to visit a doctor for a check-up to rule out any auditory issues.
Memory and cognitive abilities
Count backwards from 100 to zero by subtracting sevens, speaking out loud. This is called the ‘serial sevens test’, and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. You could also try reciting the months backwards. This will test your ability to concentrate and remember. If you’re worried you might not be as sharp as you’ve been in the past, regularly test yourself and engage in mind-building exercises to get your brain back into fighting shape.
Sit up straight on the ground with your back against a wall and legs stretched out straight, with toes pointing upwards. Lean forward with your arms outstretched and reach as far as you can past your toes. If you can’t reach your toes, even with your fingertips, it may be due to stiff arteries. There’s a strong link between being physically flexible and having healthy arteries, so take up stretching every day to minimise your risk of heart disease.
Take a brisk walk up and down a couple of flights of stairs, trying not to stop to catch your breath. This will test your lungs’ ability to provide oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide effectively. If you find you’re wheezing or struggling to breathe, you may be experiencing a decline in lung function. This could be related to asthma or exposure to harmful irritants such as cigarette smoke, but could also signify an underlying respiratory condition.
Stand with your arm outstretched and balance a piece of paper on the top of your hand, with your palm facing the floor. Watch for trembling, as hand tremors could be a symptom of hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland. Look out for other symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, irritability, sweating and a fast heartbeat. Trembling hands
could also indicate other health issues, such as low blood sugar, so visit your doctor for a diagnosis.
At-home testing kits
There are various personal testing devices available from Dis-Chem, health stores and online providers like Takealot.com, which allow you to keep track of your health issues.
- Test your blood glucose levels using a finger-prick device, applying the blood to an analysis strip and using a glucometer to read the results.
- Test for urinary tract infections by dipping a testing strip into a urine sample. The strip will change colour according to which markers are present, including haemoglobin (blood), nitrates and leukocytes (white blood cells). If any of the markers are present, your body may be fighting off infection.
- Test your cholesterol levels by applying a finger-prick amount of blood to a testing strip, similar to the blood glucose test. The device will indicate the levels of fats in the blood by reading the strip sample.
FEATURE: CAITLIN GENG PHOTO: STOCK.ADOBE.COM
The information in this feature is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always consult your GP or a medical specialist for specific information regarding your health.