Monitor Your Own Health

You live in your body every day, which makes you the best judge of your own health. You just need to know what to look for—such as your heartbeat after exercise and unusual hair loss. This checklist will allow you to play medical detective between checkups.

Think PERF

Every evening, think PERF. Essentially, there are four things you should monitor every day to make sure you are living healthy:

Produce: the amount of vegetables and fruits you ate that day.

Exercise: whether you walked and were active.

Relaxation: whether you got at least 15 minutes of laughter and fun time for yourself.

Fibre: whether you got enough beans, grains, and other high-fiber food in your diet.

If you can say you did well on all four of these, you lived a very healthy day. If you can say you do well on these on most days, your life begins to look a lot longer and healthier.

Monitor Your Sleepiness

There are three good ways to tell if you are getting enough sleep. First, do you require an alarm clock to wake up most mornings? Second, do you become drowsy in the afternoon to the point that it affects what you are doing? Third, do you doze off shortly after eating dinner? If the answer to any of these is yes, you need more sleep for good health. And if you are getting enough sleep and still have these troubles, you should talk with your doctor about your low energy. A healthy, well-rested person should wake up refreshed without the aid of an alarm clock each morning, not be overly drowsy during the day, and still have some energy left over for after-dinner activity.

Check Your Hairbrush

If your hair is falling out, ask your doctor to check your levels of blood ferritin, an indication of how much iron your body is storing. Some studies suggest that low levels may be related to unexplained hair loss. Thyroid disease is another fairly common cause.

Chart Your Pee

Keep a mental color chart of the colour of your urine. Sure, it sounds gross, but at least you don’t have to pee into a cup to do it. Your urine should be a clear, straw color; if it’s dark or has a strong smell, you may not be getting enough fluids. If it continues dark colored even after you increase your liquid intake, follow up with your doctor. Bright yellow urine? Chalk it up to the B vitamins in your multivitamin.

Follow Your Heart

Check your heartbeat after you exercise. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who had poor heart rate recovery, or HRR, after exercise had twice the 10-year risk of having a heart attack as those who had normal HRR. To test your HRR after regular strenuous activity, count your heartbeats for 15 seconds, then multiply by four to get your heart rate. Then sit down and wait two minutes before checking again. Subtract the second number from the first. If it’s under 55, then your HRR is higher than normal and you should follow up with your doctor.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

Check your blood pressure every six months, either at home with a home blood pressure cuff, at the drugstore, or at a health fair or screening. If the top number is over 120 and the bottom number is higher than 80, wait a day, then check it again. If it’s still high, follow up with your doctor.

Check Your Cholesterol

Check your cholesterol once a year either with a home kit, which is available at most pharmacies. If your total cholesterol is over 150 mg/dl, follow up with your doctor.

Get Naked Every Two to Three Months

With a significant other (or very close friend) conduct a head-to-toe skin exam looking for any new moles, changed moles, suspicious spots, or rashes. Make sure to check your scalp, between your toes and fingers, and even on the underside of your arms. If you find anything worrisome, follow up with a dermatologist. Do the ABCD test when checking moles:

Asymmetry: The two halves don’t match

Border irregularity: The edges are jagged

Color: It’s not uniform

Diameter: It’s more than one-quarter inch wide

Go Over Your Toenails Once a Month

Look for early signs of fungal infection or in-grown toenails; both are best treated early.

Know Your BMI

Body Mass Index has become particularly popular to gauge the health of your weight, because it relates weight to height. A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9.

A BMI of 25 to 30 puts you in the overweight category, increasing your risk for numerous diseases and health conditions.

A BMI above 30 means you are obese, a formal medical condition recognized by the federal government and most insurers. To figure your BMI check out our BMI calculator.

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