Table of Contents
- 15 Warning Signs That You’re Unhealthy
- 1. Bad skin
- 2. Sleep issues
- 3. Bathroom problems
- 4. Lip balm reliance
- 5. Bad fingernails and toenails
- 6. Body temperature fluctuation
- 7. A cloudy mind
- 8. You’re consistently itchy
- 9. You’re shrinking
- 10. Premature graying
- 11. Your legs swell
- 12. You develop wrinkles in odd spots
- 13. Bad breath
- 14. Yellowing eyes
- 15. Swollen neck
- 45 Sneaky Signs You’re Unhealthier Than You May Think
- 4 Your fingernails are changing.
- 5 You have indigestion.
- 6 You get frequent fungal infections.
- 7 Your breath smells.
- 8 You’re losing weight unexpectedly.
- 9 Your ankles are swollen.
- 10 You snore.
- 11 You’re always getting up to pee.
- 12 Your cuts never heal.
- 13 You’re depressed.
- 14 Your hair is dry.
- 15 You’re losing more hair than usual.
- 16 You’re experiencing erectile dysfunction.
- 17 You’re overly sensitive to temperature.
- 18 You experience hot flashes.
- 19 You sweat profusely.
- 20 You have night sweats.
- 21 You have trouble driving at night.
- 22 You have pain behind your eyes.
- 23 Your vision suddenly changes.
- 24 Your eyes are dry.
- 25 Your eyes are discolored.
- 26 You’re nauseous.
- 27 You’re constantly thinking about food.
- 28 You have irregular bowel movements.
- 29 You have dry skin.
- 30 You’re always thirsty.
- 31 You have irregular periods.
- 32 You have headaches.
- 33 You’re prone to fractures.
- 34 You’re losing your hearing.
- 35 You get short of breathe when you bend over.
- 36 You have jaw pain.
- 37 You have shoulder pain.
- 38 You have pain in your armpit.
- 39 You have hoarseness.
- 40 You’re fatigued.
- 41 You’re stressed.
- 42 Your lips are chapped.
- 43 You get bad bruises.
- 44 Your brain is in a fog.
- 45 You’re always itchy.
- 1. Going grey before 40
- 2. Rough spots
- 3. Short eyebrows
- 4. Hooded eyelids
- 5. Not so white whites
- 6. Creased ear lobes
- 7. Constant flushing
- 8. Cracked lips
- 9. Swollen neck
- 10. Sunless tan
- 11. Big chested?
- 12. Chicken skin
- 13. Love handles
- 14. Red palms
- 15. Long ring finger
- 16. Unsightly nails
- 17. Cold feet
15 Warning Signs That You’re Unhealthy
If you’re living a generally unhealthy lifestyle, you’re probably clued-in. Most of us are aware that we shouldn’t be shoveling garbage down our throats at every opportunity, reaching for sodas, completely ignoring our bodies’ primal urges for exercise — but we do it anyway. And we somehow are able to shut down the nagging voice in the back of our minds that tell us to knock it off and get ourselves into shape.
Here are 15 tell-tale signs that you’re unhealthy, some (page 12) may surprise you.
1. Bad skin
Inspecting your skin is a good place to start. | iStock.com
The quality of your skin is a sure-fire way to get a reading on your overall level of health. Of course, some people struggle with skin issues like acne and are otherwise perfectly fine — but skin quality can clue you into some bigger problems. A poor diet can really impact your skin quality, and if you’re noticing blemishes like stretch marks? That should tell you that something is wrong.
Next: Not getting enough (or too much) of this may be a sign.
2. Sleep issues
Struggling to sleep may indicate certain problems. | iStock.com
Can’t seem to fall asleep at night? That can be an indication that some aspects of your life need adjusting. Whether it be that you’re eating the wrong foods, ingesting too much caffeine late in the day, or not expelling enough energy during the day, not being able to sleep presents an issue — which cascades into further issues.
Next: Don’t be embarrassed by this important sign.
3. Bathroom problems
You might want to take a look the next time you go. | iStock.com
Yep, we’re getting down and dirty. Take note of the color of your urine, and even how frequently you’re going No. 2 — those could both provide important insight into the state of your overall health. Since you’re going to ask, your urine should be a pale yellow color — and hopefully odorless. As for your bowel movement frequency, there’s a wide range. But if you’re going regularly, you’re probably fine. And don’t ignore the grimy details during your investigation.
Next: This has something to do with your vitamin levels.
4. Lip balm reliance
If your lips always feel dry, you could have a deficiency. | iStock.com
If your lips are constantly chapped, and you find that you can’t live without lip balm, that’s your body’s way of telling you that something’s wrong. Specifically, your lip condition is an indicator of your vitamin levels. If your lips are chapped, you may be vitamin strapped — so diversify your diet, and get the nutrients you need.
Next: This is why you shouldn’t hide your nails under polish.
5. Bad fingernails and toenails
Your nails can say a lot about your health. | iStock.com
If the condition of your lips wasn’t a solid enough indicator, your finger and toenails can also give you a heads-up if you’re unhealthy. You’re going to want to be on the lookout for ridges, discoloration, and bumps — all of which should be red flags. Your nails can tell you a lot about your overall state of health, so if something is strange, don’t ignore it.
Next: Always cold?
6. Body temperature fluctuation
Hands that feel cold as ice indicate something’s wrong. | iStock.com
Icy feet and hands aren’t normal. Yes, there could be environmental factors at play, but if you’re consistently finding that your extremities are ice cold, it can be a sign of cardiovascular problems. Specifically, cold hands or feet might mean that you’re having circulation issues and that your body isn’t getting blood where it needs to go. If this is a chronic issue, have it checked out.
Next: Did you forget where you put your keys?
7. A cloudy mind
Your mind will be pretty sharp if you are healthy. | iStock.com/SIphotography
It’s becoming quite clear that our cognitive ability and brain health are closely tied to our physical condition. That means that obesity and elevated levels of body fat can have a significant impact on our ability to think and reason. It’s kind of scary, but also a very promising area of research. So, if you can’t formulate a potent thought, it may be a sign that it’s time to drop some weight.
Next: This is an unusual sign of liver disease.
8. You’re consistently itchy
The constant need to scratch might mean liver problems. | Michael Regan/Getty Images
If you’re not acutely aware that you have an itch, you probably won’t notice. But if you’re thinking about whether or not you have an itch? You’ll be itchy. It’s weird. However, if you’re seemingly always itchy and it’s disrupting your day, that may indicate a bigger problem. It could be your body’s way of telling you you’re allergic to something nearby. Or it could be a skin disorder, as we covered earlier. One big worry? Excess itchiness could be a sign of liver trouble.
Next: Get your bone density checked.
9. You’re shrinking
OK, it won’t be this noticeable. | Buena Vista Pictures
Have you noticed you’re getting shorter? Most of us don’t give much thought to our height, but as we age, we can actually shrink. We’re talking very small amounts here — nothing like Ant Man. You should take this seriously, though, as this can signal serious health problems. Commonly, this is associated with bone loss. Or, it could mean you’re not getting enough vital nutrients like protein and calcium. That, down the line, could lead to fractures as bones lose density.
Next: Did you know this symptom could be connected to a thyroid disorder?
10. Premature graying
Getting gray hair at a young age may mean you have a thyroid disorder. | iStock.com/grinvalds
Going gray at an early age? Sometimes that’s just a part of getting older. Other times, it can be a sign of health problems. While you shouldn’t panic just because you’ve found a stray gray, if you’re noticing a pattern, it may be worth talking to your doctor. It could be a simple genetic quirk, but it can also be related to a number of other health conditions, including certain deficiencies and thyroid disorders.
Next: This subtle hint can mean big trouble.
11. Your legs swell
Notice any changes to your legs? | iStock.com/CrailsheimStudio
Swelling in the lower extremities may be a sign you have a thyroid, kidney, or heart condition, according to Redbook. Edema not due to physical activity should be addressed.
Next: Maybe normal aging isn’t to blame.
12. You develop wrinkles in odd spots
Your skin may change. | Staras/iStock/Getty Images
Although wrinkled skin is part of the normal aging process, premature or wrinkles in areas not exposed to the sun may be a sign of poor health, according to Redbook. Check for wrinkling in your upper arms, which may be a sign of high blood pressure.
Next: Your dentist can help you with this.
13. Bad breath
Check yourself before you leave the house. | iStock/Getty Images
Poor oral hygiene may be the blame or bad breath could mean you could have gingivitis, Redbook reports. Gingivitis is a more serious form of gum disease, which could actually lead to some pretty expensive dental issues such as tooth loss.
Next: This sign should be addressed immediately.
14. Yellowing eyes
Do you notice eye discoloration. | Thinkstock
You should be able to see the whites of your eyes, but if they seem cloudy or yellow you may be dealing with a health issue, MSN reports. Other than being hungover, yellowing in the eye area may indicate jaundice, which possibly means trouble with your liver.
Next: See your doctor if this occurs.
15. Swollen neck
Does your neck feel swollen? | Vonschonertagen/iStock/Getty Images
Neck swelling should be promptly addressed as it could mean you may have an overactive thyroid, according to MSN. Call your physician, especially if swelling occurs overnight or rapidly.
Additional reporting by Gina Ragusa.
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45 Sneaky Signs You’re Unhealthier Than You May Think
4 Your fingernails are changing.
One of the surprising places where health problems manifest is your fingernails. “Changes in your fingernails and toes can be related to diet and bad habits like smoking,” says Peter Bidey, DO, assistant professor and vice-chair of family medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It can also be an early sign that problems are occurring with your circulation or other internal systems.”
5 You have indigestion.
Indigestion often occurs after a heavy lunch or even as the result of a bad bout of gas. But because indigestion is so common, people don’t think of it as a sign of something serious, even though it can be. “Indigestion could be an early sign of cardiac or other gastrointestinal problems,” says Bidey. “If indigestion persists or does not respond to common over-the-counter medications, you should seek out your medical care provider.”
6 You get frequent fungal infections.
According to the American Diabetes Association, skin complications like fungal infections are “sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes.” Why? Well, a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans—which can cause itchy rashes and blistering, scaly red areas—is to blame. Among diabetes patients, common fungal infections include everything from jock itch and athlete’s foot to ringworm and vaginal infections.
7 Your breath smells.
Bad breath isn’t always a sign of an onion-filled lunch. Rather, it’s “often associated with gingivitis” or gum disease, says Joshua S. Yamamoto, MD, a cardiologist and co-author of You Can Prevent a Stroke. It might not seem like a big deal, but Yamamoto notes that “there is a correlation between poor gingival health and vascular inflammation,” which can lead to heart disease.
8 You’re losing weight unexpectedly.
Weight loss is only something to be celebrated when it is intentional. Otherwise, Yamamoto warns that “it can be associated with uncontrolled diabetes, heart failure, and cancer.”
9 Your ankles are swollen.
Many people find that their ankles are uncomfortably swollen after a long flight—and that’s perfectly normal. What’s not normal, however, is having swollen feet and ankles all day every day. “A heart that is not working well can fail to adequately circulate blood, and swollen feet and ankles can be an early sign of a failing heart,” warns Yamamoto.
10 You snore.
Snoring isn’t just annoying. According to Yamamoto, it’s also potentially a not-so-silent sign of a serious health issue like sleep apnea. “It’s similar to being choked to death, only you don’t even wake up to know it’s happening,” Yamamoto explains. “This causes a variety of problems, especially in terms of heart disease.”
11 You’re always getting up to pee.
Believe it or not, one way to tell whether you’re struggling to breathe at night is by whether or not you wake up to go to the bathroom every few hours. One 2009 study published in the journal Sleep and Breathing quizzed sleep apnea patients and found that a staggering 84 percent reported frequent nighttime urination—as in, as often as six times per night.
So how does sleep apnea cause this nocturia, or nighttime urination? “Oxygen decreases, carbon dioxide increases, the blood becomes more acidic, the heart rate drops, and blood vessels in the lung constrict,” lead study author Mary Umlauf, PhD, explained to the American Sleep Apnea Association. “The body is alerted that something is very wrong. The sleeper must wake enough to reopen the airway. By this time, the heart is racing and experiences a false signal of fluid overload. The heart excretes a hormone-like protein that tells the body to get rid of sodium and water, resulting in nocturia.”
12 Your cuts never heal.
If it feels like your wounds are taking longer than they should to heal, it could be a silent sign of a vitamin D deficiency. One 2011 study published in the Journal of Dental Research measured how long it took for patients to recover after a dental procedure and found that vitamin D deficiency “negatively treatment outcomes for up to one year.”
13 You’re depressed.
Feeling down in the dumps? Your vitamin D levels might be to blame. “With a vitamin D deficiency, an individual is more likely to experience depression since vitamin D receptors help regulate mood,” says Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN, founder of the nutritional program Kelly’s Choice.
14 Your hair is dry.
Does your hair feel dry and brittle no matter how much conditioner you use? Blame your diet. In one 2017 analysis published in the journal Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, researchers outlined a clear link between poor hair health and iron deficiency, zinc deficiency, selenium deficiency, and vitamin D deficiency, among others.
15 You’re losing more hair than usual.
According to Amanda Sylvie, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian with Wellnicity, this subtle symptom is often the result of “inadequate protein in the diet.” If left untreated, it can further lead to everything from chronic fatigue to an impaired immune system.
16 You’re experiencing erectile dysfunction.
Sometimes erectile dysfunction is simply an unfortunate side effect of growing older—and other times, it means that something is wrong with your heart. According to the Mayo Clinic, when the inner lining of the blood vessels fails to function properly (which is called endothelial dysfunction), blood cannot reach the penis, so this sexual impairment could be linked to heart disease. One 2013 analysis published in the journal Clinics even found that the worse a patient’s cardiovascular disease, the more severe their sexual dysfunction.
17 You’re overly sensitive to temperature.
“Temperature sensitivity, also referred to as heat or cold intolerance, may be an indication of a thyroid problem (either underactive or overactive),” explains Chirag Shah, MD, a board-certified emergency medicine physician and co-founder of online healthcare platform Push Health. “Symptoms of temperature intolerance, especially if they are new, warrant a medical evaluation to check the thyroid gland and look for other potential medical problems.”
18 You experience hot flashes.
Though hot flashes are a normal occurrence for women going through menopause, they can also make you more vulnerable to diabetes. That’s according to a 2017 study published in the journal Menopause, which analyzed data on more than 150,000 postmenopausal women and found that each hot flash was associated with an 18 percent increased diabetes risk.
If your hot flashes are accompanied by night sweats (more on those soon), then, according to the study, you are most at risk of diabetes. That means it’s worth looking into behavioral changes in order to reduce your risk.
19 You sweat profusely.
Profuse sweating, when it’s not happening after a particularly intense gym session, could be an indication of heart disease. In one 2018 study published in the journal Circulation, scientists analyzed data on more than 2,000 heart attack patients and found that nearly 54 percent of them had experienced profuse sweating as a symptom of their condition.
20 You have night sweats.
Many medications—such as those used to treat depression and those used to treat diabetes—can cause uncomfortable night sweats. If you aren’t taking any medications, though, then the Mayo Clinic warns that this uncomfortable overnight moistness could be signaling anything from leukemia to tuberculosis.
21 You have trouble driving at night.
With cars flashing their brights at you and poorly lit roads, driving at night isn’t easy for anyone. However, if you find that driving after sunset is becoming increasingly difficult, this could be a sign of an eye issue.
“If a patient, generally age 50 and above, is bothered by symptoms such as difficulty in dim light, glare and halos, and trouble driving at night, they should consider seeing an eye doctor as this could indicate that they may need to have cataract surgery,” says Ming Wang, MD, PhD, of the Wang Vision Institute in Nashville, Tennessee. “Once performed, surgery can generally alleviate these symptoms.”
22 You have pain behind your eyes.
“One of the most commonly misunderstood symptoms of a sinus infection is eye pain,” says Wang. “This occurs because the sinuses sit in areas above, below, and next to the eyes. When pressure builds up in these areas, it can cause a dull pain that feels like it is coming from around or behind the eyes when it is actually coming from the sinuses.”
23 Your vision suddenly changes.
People of all ages and genders suffer from poor vision that requires correction. But while it’s unfortunately normal for our eyes to slowly deteriorate, you should be slightly more concerned if your vision changes suddenly out of the blue.
“Sudden vision changes could indicate a wide range of issues including macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease, vascular occlusions in the eye, retinal detachment, acute glaucoma, and more,” says Wang. “Patients should seek the care of an eye doctor immediately with any sudden vision change.”
24 Your eyes are dry.
People with allergies—especially seasonal ones—are all too familiar with the feeling of dry eyes. However, if you have no known allergies and find yourself experiencing dry eyes nonetheless, this may be because of hepatitis C. In one 2007 study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, scientists found that 50 percent of hepatitis C patients had decreased tear production. “Dry eye syndrome is the most frequently observed ocular feature in infection,” the study authors concluded.
25 Your eyes are discolored.
Even a slight yellowing of the otherwise white areas of your eyes is something to look out for. It could be a sign that there’s “an underlying issue involving the liver, pancreas, or gall bladder,” explains Dr. Thanu Jeyapalan, CSCS, FCE, D.C., clinical director of the Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic in Canada.
26 You’re nauseous.
People tend to brush nausea off as a sign of a rotten lunch or even just nerves. However, you should think twice about ignoring this stomach pain, as the Parkinson’s Foundation warns that it could be a symptom of the disease.
“Difficulty swallowing, feelings of nausea, and constipation are all common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD),” notes the foundation. “The same brain changes in PD that cause stiffness and slow movement also affect the muscles involved in swallowing and in pushing food through the digestive system.”
27 You’re constantly thinking about food.
Food is delicious, and so it’s only natural to have your meals at the top of your mind every now and again. However, if monitoring your intake seems to be the only thing you think about, then Molly Bahr, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor with an eating disorder specialty, warns that this could be a silent sign that you aren’t eating enough.
“Our culture often praises people who are intentionally trying to lose weight or be healthy, but they don’t realize how often these behaviors are actually disordered eating or even a diagnosable eating disorder,” says Bahr. “Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all psychological disorders.”
28 You have irregular bowel movements.
If you’re not going to the bathroom regularly or if your bowel movements seem to be out of the ordinary, it could be a sign that there’s something going on in your gut.
“The transit time of food through your intestines is one of the first signs of a problem,” explains Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and the creator of the Candida diet. “When you don’t have enough beneficial probiotic microorganisms in your gut, pathogenic bacteria and yeast can start to take over. They affect all kinds of processes in your gut, including nutrient absorption and vitamin production. This can mean constipation or diarrhea and inconsistent, unhealthy bowel movements.”
29 You have dry skin.
Your face-washing routine might not be the reason for your dry skin. Sometimes “skin conditions can be a huge indicator of what’s going on in the gut,” says Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN, a licensed dietitian and nutritionist in Baltimore, Maryland. “If you have inflammation or you’re consuming allergenic foods, skin conditions like acne, dry skin, and eczema can be an indication of that.”
30 You’re always thirsty.
Craving a glass of water after an intense workout is normal. Feeling like you absolutely need one while sitting at your desk? A little bit less so. “Excessive thirst can be an indication of a blood sugar imbalance,” explains Self. “It can be an early sign of insulin dysregulation or even diabetes.”
31 You have irregular periods.
“Many women think period abnormalities are normal, but your cycle is actually considered an important vital sign,” explains Self. “A heavy, irregular, or painful period can indicate anything from a thyroid condition to fibroids.” One 2002 study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology even found that young women with irregular periods were more likely to be diagnosed with a hormonal shortage that could develop into osteoporosis.
32 You have headaches.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) doesn’t always immediately manifest as muscular issues. Rather, one 2018 study published in the journal European Neurology found that 78 percent of MS patients experienced headaches at the onset of their illness that got better within six months of treatment. If you think that it’s at all possible that MS could be causing your head pain, seek a medical professional’s opinion as soon as possible.
33 You’re prone to fractures.
As you get older, it’s easy to chalk up frequent falls and subsequent fractures to the not-so-fun yet natural aging process. However, breaking a bone every other month is not normal, and could be a sign that you are malnourished. According to the Mayo Clinic, anything from dementia and dental issues to taking certain medications can lead to malnutrition. It’s especially important to watch out for this ailment as you reach your senior years.
34 You’re losing your hearing.
Hearing loss is one of the most silent health symptoms out there. According to 2013 research from Johns Hopkins University, older adults with hearing loss were 24 percent more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within a six-year period.
35 You get short of breathe when you bend over.
You shouldn’t be out of breath just from bending over to tie your shoes. If you are, it could mean that your heart is starting to give out. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure, this phenomenon—dubbed bendopnea—can be a symptom of excess fluid retention in patients with underperforming hearts.
36 You have jaw pain.
Believe it or not, heart attacks can sometimes cause jaw pain. Unfortunately, the majority of individuals suffering aren’t aware that this is a symptom until it’s too late. One 2012 study published in the Spanish-language journal Medicina Oral Patologia Oral Y Cirugia Bucal even found that approximately one in every 10 heart attacks begins as jaw pain.
37 You have shoulder pain.
Sometimes a tumor in the lungs—called pleural mesothelioma—manifests as shoulder pain. That’s according to a 2015 study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, which found that 14 percent of people with this rare type of cancer experienced shoulder pain, often as their first symptom.
Shoulder pain isn’t usually a sign of cancer, but if you have inhaled a harmful substance like asbestos in your lifetime, then you should see that discomfort as a warning of something more serious.
38 You have pain in your armpit.
When you think about breast cancer, the first symptom that comes to mind is lumps. However, that isn’t the only way that this form of cancer manifests.
One study presented at the 2016 National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference found that breast cancer patients with less obvious symptoms—like nipple abnormalities, breast inflammation, and pain in the armpit—were more likely to wait more than three months to seek treatment.
39 You have hoarseness.
Having a hoarse voice after going to a loud concert or sporting event is hardly concerning. Having a hoarse voice after enjoying a relaxing and quiet day, however, is. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, this could be a symptom of vocal cord cancer—and if you smoke or were a smoker in the past, then you should be hyperaware of this silent health symptom.
40 You’re fatigued.
“Fatigue can be related to a number of different issues, and talking with your physician can narrow down a potential diagnosis,” explains Erik Polan, DO, assistant professor of internal medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Things occurring with fatigue—such as unexplained weight loss, night sweats, easy bruising, and lumps or bumps under the skin—could signify potential cancers. Other issues that can cause similar symptoms include viral infections (like HIV) or rarer endocrine or rheumatologic issues.”
41 You’re stressed.
Stress is something that far too many people have let themselves become accustomed to. However, what most folks don’t realize is that chronic stress can take as much of a toll on your physical health as it does on your emotional wellbeing.
“Some people are totally functional in a high-stress environment, so they don’t always notice when pressure from work or family is affecting their health,” explains Dr. Sal Raichbach, PsyD, of the Ambrosia Treatment Center in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. “It impacts your nervous system, your cardiovascular system, and your gastrointestinal system, leading to an array of potential health problems. Plus, you’re more likely to get heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and headaches when you are under constant stress.”
42 Your lips are chapped.
If your lips are chapped and dry in the middle of December, then odds are that you have harsh winds and dropping temperatures to blame. However, if it’s the middle of the summer and your lips are still not well hydrated, then you could be dealing with a myriad of issues ranging from an allergy to dehydration. It’s worth visiting a doctor to try to diagnose and remedy the issue.
43 You get bad bruises.
Every so often we wake up with an unsightly bruise on our leg, but we can’t recall bumping it or falling. And while the occasional bruise is normal, excessive and easy bruising that never seems to end could be indicative of a serious problem. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, this can be a symptom of everything from a blood disease to a clotting problem.
44 Your brain is in a fog.
Both your brain and your kidneys are impacted by the cardiovascular systems. Therefore, if you ever find yourself dealing with brain fog, it’s quite possible that your kidneys are the source of the problem. In fact, one 2012 study published in the journal Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation found that declining renal function was associated with declining cognitive function.
45 You’re always itchy.
When your kidneys start to fail, your skin responds by getting itchy—and we mean really itchy. One 2017 study published in the journal Seminars in Nephrology notes that approximately 40 percent of patients with end-stage renal disease deal with moderate to severe pruritus, i.e. severe itching of the skin. And for more health advice, check out these 30 Signs of Deadly Health Conditions Hiding in Plain Sight.
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If you want to keep an eye on your health, you could do worse than to spend a few minutes scrutinising your body in the mirror. Are your eyes pink? Have your nails turned brown at the top?
Noticing small changes can nudge you into paying attention to potential problems, as I found out during a recent facial.
Do you have high cholesterol? The therapist suddenly asked. I said no, but it worried me into getting tested. And the therapist was right.
She’d picked up on creamy spots round my eyes, which were full of fatty cholesterol. Of course, it’s vital not to let symptom spotting get out of hand: trivial signs are often just that. It’s when they persist, or are combined with other symptoms, that they become important. If that’s the case, see your GP.
1. Going grey before 40
Premature greying can have a medical cause. ‘If you have 50% grey hair before the age of 40, you should probably be checked for diabetes,’ says Dr Joan Liebmann-Smith, author of Body Signs (Michael Joseph, £12.99).
2. Rough spots
Crusty blemishes, or keratoses, are usually benign. Dark ones often run in families, but are harmless. Solar keratoses, however, are triggered by sun damage and are an early warning of skin cancer, so seek advice.
3. Short eyebrows
Losing hair from the outer edge of your brows is a sign of an underactive thyroid. It thins hair on your head too, but treatment is available that will soon restore your crowning glory.
Christopher RobbinsGetty Images
4. Hooded eyelids
They may look sultry, but have them checked – the cause could be more than ageing or a family trait. If they droop so much that your sight is impaired, this is the one time you can have an eye-lift on the NHS.
5. Not so white whites
This usually means you’re tired, hungover or just made that way, but watch out for whites that turn yellow when you’re run down – it may be a sign of Gilbert’s Syndrome, where bilirubin builds up in the blood, causing jaundice. ‘Pink eye’ is a common name for conjunctivitis. If it persists, have a test for chlamydia, which can in flame eyes.
6. Creased ear lobes
A study in The American Journal of Medicine revealed a diagonal crease can up the risk of heart disease by a third – 77% if both lobes are affected. The theory is the line shows a lack of elasticity, which also affects the arteries. But the culprit also could be ageing: “Earlobe creases probably increase with age – as does the likelihood of heart disease,” says US health guru Andrew Weil.
7. Constant flushing
Red cheeks and nose (rosacea) often affects women aged between 30 and 55. Stress, sun and spicy foods make blood vessels dilate, so limit your exposure. Rosacea can affect the eyes and is sometimes confused with lupus – see a GP, who can prescribe antibiotics.
8. Cracked lips
Cracks at the corners of your mouth are sometimes caused by a shortage of B vitamins or zinc. With long-term cracks, a fungal infection may set in – treatments for oral thrush may help.
9. Swollen neck
You’d notice if your glands enlarged overnight, but a goitre – a swelling at the front of the neck – can be more insidious. It may indicate Graves’ disease, an overactive thyroid condition that is most common in women aged between 20 and 50, especially likely if your eyes are also prominent and you’re losing weight.
10. Sunless tan
Darkening skin is worth reporting to your GP. A rare cause is Addison’s disease (failure of the adrenal glands), which also makes you tired, sick and achy. If you do have it, the good news is that it can be treated.
11. Big chested?
If you’re well endowed on top, keep slim below. Having a D-cup size or larger breasts can make you more susceptible to diabetes, according to a recent Canadian study, while a slim waist can help protect you.
12. Chicken skin
Permanent goosebumps, caused by an overgrowth of keratin, are common – one in three of us have them, usually on the arms. They’re harmless, but if they bother you, use a soap-free body wash and plenty of moisturiser, or copy Cleopatra and bathe in milk, because lactic acid can help. If they flare up, your GP may prescribe a steroid cream.
13. Love handles
It’s tempting to just suck in your tummy, but a podgy middle triples your risk of dementia, as well as making you vulnerable to diabetes and heart disease.
14. Red palms
These can be an early symptom of liver disease – you’ll probably feel sick and lethargic, too. It’s wise to ask for medical advice quickly to limit the damage.
15. Long ring finger
An index finger shorter than your ring finger means you were exposed to high levels of testosterone while in the womb. That can give you ambition and a high sex drive, but it may also make you more susceptible to arthritis of the knee, according to a study by the University of Nottingham. Build up your muscles with leg raises to help support your knees.
16. Unsightly nails
A horizontal line (or Beau’s line) can be a sign of past illness or poor nutrition – or that you’ve hit your nail with a hammer. But if they keep appearing, take steps to improve your health. Spoon-shaped nails that curve outwards can be a symptom of anaemia. And nails that are pale at the cuticle and brownish-red at the tip could mean your kidneys are struggling.
17. Cold feet
They are a long way from your heart, so are the first place vascular disease shows up. Abnormally cold feet and hands are linked to Raynaud’s syndrome, where the blood supply drains from fingers and toes. But don’t just reach for your socks – Raynaud’s is linked to several autoimmune conditions, so needs to be checked out.
Here are seven warning signs that may be cause for concern.
1. Tearing sensation
If you feel a tearing sensation in your back, you may think you’ve pulled a muscle. But if you haven’t done any physical activity to cause a muscle injury, this sensation might be much more serious. It could be a rupture of the aorta. An aorta rupture can give the sensation of sudden, severe, stabbing pain in the back. If this type of pain persists for more than 20 minutes and it’s accompanied by nausea, seek immediate medical attention.
2. Crushing chest pain
One of the more well-known warning signs is crushing chest pain, which is usually associated with a heart attack. Other heart-woe indicators are tightness, heavy pressure or squeezing in the chest. The pain may also travel to the arm, shoulder, jaw or back.
Even if it’s not from a heart attack, you should not ignore chest pain. Crushing chest pain with nausea, vomiting and sweating is dangerous, so call 911 right away.
3. Tingling in the arms or other extremities
A tingling sensation in your hands, arms, legs or feet is not only uncomfortable but also a cause for concern. Tingling is easy to ignore, but it is a sign from the body of illness.
Tingling is related to circulation problems and diseases such as anemia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Buerger’s disease — a condition of the arteries and veins. Tingling in the feet may also be a sign of kidney issues.
If tingling is your only symptom, you can wait to see your regular doctor to investigate. But a tingling sensation that lasts for more than an hour and is accompanied by other symptoms like dizziness and nausea requires immediate medical help.
Dizziness or lightheadedness can be caused by disturbances in the brain, the gastrointestinal system, vision or the inner ear. Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms that cause people to seek medical attention.
If you feel dizzy for more than an hour and develop other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, seek medical attention. Dizziness is also related to several other health issues, including high blood pressure, low blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, anemia, dehydration and heart conditions.
Excessive sweating may be caused by a variety of factors, including hot flashes, exercise, stress, excess weight or even spicy food. Heavy sweating may also be a sign of thyroid problems, diabetes or heart issues.
If you are sweating more than usual, you don’t need to call 911, but you should consult a physician to rule out a serious underlying medical condition.
Numbness in the face, arms or legs can be a very serious signal, especially if the feeling is on one side of the body, as this could indicate a stroke. This symptom may be accompanied by sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding, as well as blurred vision.
Numbness is also associated with several other illnesses, including Lyme disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome and diabetes, and a herniated disk. No matter what the cause, numbness should always be investigated, and if it is accompanied by other symptoms of a stroke, call an ambulance immediately.
Swelling is usually due to inflammation or a buildup of fluid and may result from a range of conditions. The most common reason for swollen feet or ankles is poor circulation. In older people, it could mean their blood vessels are weakening. It could also be an indication of a blood clot blocking the veins.
One of the more serious conditions associated with swelling is edema, which happens when an abnormal amount of fluid builds up in the body. Edema can damage the heart, make you feel weak when walking and cause swollen ankles.
Always investigate the cause of any type of swelling. And if you experience swollen ankles, make an appointment with your doctor right away.
Immediate Medical Care
When serious health symptoms occur, an ambulance is the quickest way to receive immediate attention. Emergency medical technicians can provide immediate care at the scene and in the ambulance. If you drive yourself or someone else to the hospital, there will be an emergency room wait and precious time may be lost.
The definition of “healthy” is different for many of us. Some people believe health is what is attained once you’ve cut out carbs, and others feel that they’re healthy if they’re abstaining from processed sugar. But health is a broad term. Are you healthy if you aren’t currently diagnosed with a chronic disease? Does veganism equal health?
What exactly does is mean to be truly healthy?
The following points are what I’ve come up with, both during my own observations and experiences, as well as asking others this question. Here are what I consider to be five signs that you are really healthy:
- You consistently get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and wake up feeling refreshed. Great, consistent sleep is a fabulous indicator of good health. It means your body is regulated, your cortisol levels and core body temperature are normal, and you have the ability to let your mind rest peacefully, which indicates low stress. If you can achieve amazing sleep, congratulations! If you fall into the category of those who can’t sleep, I can assure you, I’ve definitely been there. For me, there are 3 things that I’ve identified as being culprits here: alcohol consumption (if I have more than one glass of wine, sleep is up in the air), stress (overthinking things), and excitement (not calming down enough for your body to rest). Other things that can lead to bad sleep include eating right before bed (your body will buzz with the energy t takes to digest that snack), sleeping in a warm room, and too much light.
- You have energy throughout the entire day. No 3pm slump for you! How does one obtain this? Aside from having a decent sleep, it’s with food. Good food. Food that contains proper energy sources and the correct balance of nutrients to assist your body in lasting happily throughout the entire day. Real food—not a chocolate bar. A good tip: eat a light, healthy lunch (lettuce wraps or salad with wild salmon), and then grab a snack around 3 o’clock. A smoothie, homemade granola bar, or boiled egg with salsa and avocado are great examples.
- You’re moving your bowels in a healthy way at least once a day. Now, when I specify “healthy” here, I mean that your movements are effortless, quick, significant, and normal-looking. (Not loose.) If you’re feeling empty after visiting the washroom, that’s good. To achieve better bowel movements, try tracking how much insoluble fibre you ingest (you need this to sweep your colon clean), and make sure you’re drinking enough water. Foods that can make BMs subpar are dairy, too much heavy meat, heavy breads (especially if you’re sensitive to wheat or gluten), and too much sugar. For more information on how to obtain better digestive health, check out Happy Healthy Gut.
- Your skin is clear, and your hair and nails look good. Your skin is your largest organ, and what it looks like says a lot about your health. Same goes for your hair and nails. Dry, brittle nails and hair can signify dehydration, and peeling problems can represent vitamin deficiencies. For better skin, hair, and nails, try drinking more water and eating more vegetables. Cut down on processed sugar, and begin to look at your food as fuel for your body.
- You’re happy. Honestly, consistently, truly happy. Happiness is directly correlated with good health, and people who can honestly call themselves happy are typically healthy, too. The mind and body are completely connected, and a clear, calm mind will usually be accompanied by a healthy body. To achieve better happiness, try and make a list of everything that is in your life that makes you upset and stressed out. Either let it go (meaning get out of that unhappy relationship or find a better job), or make clear strides to improve the situation. Do it NOW—don’t wait.
What I am trying to get at it this: you don’t have to weigh 120 pounds or love the Paleo diet or declare veganism as your new diet of choice to be healthy. Health is a complicated thing, but the points above will hopefully lead you in the right direction.
Weight isn’t the only way to gauge your health — and most of the time, it doesn’t even provide an accurate assessment. (Alone, the number on the scale says nothing about your disease risk, physical fitness, mental health, and many other aspects of well-being that figure into health.) But because weight tends be one of the first things your doctor measures, and because at home, it’s easier to step on a scale than take your own vital signs, you’d probably never know.
A review recently published in Journal of Obesity points out that putting all this weight on, well, weight, is doing more harm than good — tying “healthy weight” to health itself can make heavier people feel ashamed, deter doctors from solving overweight patients’ health issues, and make lighter people less cautious about their health. Never mind that it’s entirely possible to be simultaneously overweight and healthy, or “normal” weight and unhealthy.
“We want health to be a number and say, ‘This blood pressure equals health,'” says Fall Ferguson, master of holistic health education and president of the Association of Size Diversity and Health. “But that’s just one risk factor, and health is so much more nuanced. It isn’t a quantifiable phenomenon.”
It’s no secret that health is also very individualized. You’d need a medical degree, some blood work, and a slew of clinical tests to tell the full story. But if you want to see where you stand between checkups without stepping foot on a scale, consider these signs of health from Ferguson and the review authors:
1. You eat more whole foods than processed foods. You can’t deny that food plays a role in health. But people tend to have an all-or-nothing approach to eating well — and a salad-only diet doesn’t guarantee good health. “One of the simplest things you can do is eat more whole foods and fewer processed foods,” Ferguson says. That means eating lean protein like chicken breasts instead of processed deli meat, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa instead of breads, chips, and crackers, and, yes, lots of veggies and fruits.
2. You eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. (At least most of the time.) There’s good evidence that those behaviors are going to make you healthier and feel better even if your weight doesn’t change, according to the authors of Journal of Obesity review. Because this is much easier said than done (especially for former dieters) start by paying attention to what happens to your body while you’re eating, half an hour after you eat, and two hours after you eat. When you realize which foods satisfy your appetite and give you sustainable energy, and which ones make you feel bloated or sluggish, you’ll begin to see food both pleasurable and functional, and you’ll be less likely to eat foods that don’t benefit your body and more likely to eat quantities that suit your needs.
3. You don’t beat yourself up when you indulge in something sweet or fried or generally considered unhealthy, because (1) it was freakin’ delicious, and (2) you don’t eat it every day. And that has nothing to do with watching your weight — you just know that your body functions better when you fill up on wholesome foods.
4. You move your body and call it exercise. And you kind, of sort of like it — even though you know that it doesn’t make you “good” because your health has nothing to do with morals or the quality of your soul. Oh, and it doesn’t have to be 45 minutes or an hour — short amounts of activity throughout the day can seriously benefit your mental and physical health. (Check out thesequick workoutsfor inspiration.)
5. You don’t let the amount of food you ate make you “feel bad,” or anything but satisfied or hungry for more. See above.
6. You have some sort of connection to your community. Whether that means grabbing lunch with your office crew or volunteering with a church group or wearing your sorority letters, long-term studies suggest that tight-knit communities are clinically healthier than their disconnected neighbors.
7. You sleep enough to function. Whether that means sticking to a 10 p.m. bedtime or sleeping in on the weekends until noon, you should get enough sleep to go about your day without binge drinking coffee or falling asleep at the wheel. Also: Lack of sleep can mess with your body’s hunger signals, so you can’t quite figure out whether you’re satisfied or starving. (See No. 2 above.) While you’re at it, make sure you’re not making one of these major sleeping mistakes.
8. You can physically accomplish the things that are important to you. That might mean simply walking up stairs without getting winded or running a half marathon. If you’re out of shape, you may not be able to attain either overnight. But good health means you can set a goal and stand to reason that you’ll get there.
9. You can manage your day-to-day life — or feel like you have the kind of help you need to get by. That means you don’t burst into tears at work on the reg. And apart from the occasional bad day, you can generally handle the challenges life throws at you. What does this have to do with health, you ask? It’s a sign that you’re well suited to repel the kind of stress that leads to chronic disease. “There’s more to health than physiology,” Ferguson says.
10. You can find a way to feel awesome about how you spend your days. Not everyone can do work they love. But if you can figure out a way to make it personally meaningful (i.e., appreciate that your shitty job pays the rent for an apartment that you happen to love), your upbeat attitude will make you more resilient and enhance your well-being.
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Elizabeth Narins Senior fitness and health editor Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan.com, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more.
Only just a decade ago, key indicators of good health were fairly finite. The primary one, of course, was if you weighed too much (or even just appeared to have too much fat on your body). You’d automatically and unfairly be labeled as unhealthy. But with the help of the body positivity movement and generally improved common sense, prime health is now defined less by numbers and more by what your body is capable of achieving and how you feel.
Still, medical professionals haven’t eschewed numbers are indicators of good health entirely. In fact, they use a few as key indicators as to whether or not we are in good health.
Here, medical professionals reveal four of the key signs that show our good health, and five you should definitely keep an eye out for if something feels wrong.
Signs indicating good health
According to Jeffrey R. Carlson, MD, president of the Orthopaedic and Spine Center, one of the most telling signs of good health is our blood pressure. “Optimal blood pressure for the average person is expected to be roughly 120/80,” he explains. “The ‘pressure’ in blood pressure is generated by the heart. Heart function (the beating) is what generates the pressure needed to push blood throughout the arteries and veins.”
A range lower than 120/80 is even better, but with some caveats. “With better health and improved cardiovascular function, blood pressures can be much lower even in the range of 90/60,” Dr. Carlson says. “But this is very dependent on the individual. Low blood pressure can be an issue if a person is experiencing pain or some other debilitating symptom.”
When it comes to your heart rate, Dr. Carlson has a simple rule of thumb. “In general, the more healthy the individual, the lower the heart rate.” So if you’re ridiculously, insanely in shape, according to Dr. Carlson, you should see a heart rate hovering in the upper 30s and low 40s—but that’s if you’re a serious athlete. The average person should have roughly 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Although body temperature isn’t an indicator that you’re marathon-ready, according to Dr. Bryan Becker, vice president of Integrated Care for DaVita, it’s still one of the telltale signs of prime health. “Normal body temperature (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 37 degrees Celsius) is a sign of being healthy,” explains Dr Becker. “When body temperature varies from its normal range, it can be a sign of illness, either acute or chronic and it can indicate certain types of health problems.”
It’s okay to breathe like a maniac during and immediately after an intense sweat sesh, but once your pulse starts to slow, so should your normal breathing rate (or your respiratory rate), Dr. Becker says. So if you’re taking 12 to 16 solid breaths while sprawled on the couch, you’re in pretty good shape.
But if these vital signs dip, be sure to take notice
While there are certain numerical vital signs that can give us a quick and accurate glimpse into our overall health, conversely, there are a slew of symptoms associated with poor health. According to Dr. Becker, if you are experiencing any of these five signs, keep a close eye on how your body progresses, or seek medical attention as soon as you can:
- night sweats
- cyclical fever/warm temperature
- extreme pain when exercising
- unintended weight loss
- abnormal bruising or bleeding
A jump or dip in weight isn’t necessarily a concern, but if it’s associated with aches and pain in the muscles and joints, you could have a blood sugar problem,Dr. Becker says.
Of course, while paying attention to your vital signs and symptoms of sickness is a surefire way to keep your health and check, individuality is the name of the game. If you’re truly concerned about your health or believe something is wrong, consult with a medical professional first.