What to do: See how many times you can sit and stand up from a chair in one minute, making sure you stand completely upright, with straight legs, every time.
Be concerned if: You can only perform about 20 repetitions. You’re twice as likely to have a shortened lifespan than women who can perform more than 30 in 60 seconds. The ‘chair rise’ test is a measure of muscle strength, which is a predictor of life expectancy.
How to fight it: Eat a 65g serving of cooked lean, red meat three or four times a week, and do some regular strength training exercises. It’s a combination that results in an 18 per cent bigger increase in muscle strength than exercise alone. The protein in the meat stimulates the production of a hormone that improves muscle growth.
READ MORE: 8 Things Japanese People Do To Live Longer
What to do: Measure your neck’s circumference.
Be concerned if: Yours is 34cm or larger. It’s a reliable indication that you’re carrying too much weight, which is one of the main risk factors for diabetes. Plus, it can be a better predictor – compared to other measurements like waist circumference – of some diabetes risk factors, such as unhealthy cholesterol levels.
How to fight it: Make an effort to lose weight in the next six months. Drop 10 per cent of your body weight in that timeframe, and your risk of developing diabetes in the next three years falls by 85 per cent. Also, drink more coffee. Drinking four cups a day may lower diabetes risk by up to 25 per cent. Coffee blocks the action of a pancreatic hormone that plays a key role in the development of diabetes.
Stroke and Dementia Risk
What to do: Time how long you can balance on one leg for, keeping your eyes open.
Be concerned if: You find it difficult to balance on one leg for at least 20 seconds. Postural instability can be a sign that the brain has experienced a ‘silent stroke’ or microbleed, both of which bump up the risk of dementia and full-blown stroke.
How to fight it: Ask your doctor for advice, and eat more oily fish. Not only are higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids linked to a lower occurrence of silent strokes, eating a daily serve of fish lowers stroke risk by 20 per cent and protects against dementia. Omega-3s help to neutralise the artery plaques that rupture to cause a stroke and preserve brain size.
What to do: Balance a piece of A4 paper on your outstretched hand (with your palm facing towards the floor).
Be concerned if: The paper trembles or shakes noticeably. A tremor of the hands is one of the symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland, a condition called ‘hyperthyroidism’ that can cause osteoporosis and heart problems, when it’s not treated. Other symptoms include sweating, irritability, a fast heartbeat and unexplained weight loss.
How to fight it: Visit your doctor for a blood test. Medication is the most common treatment for hyperthyroidism. But other problems such as low blood glucose levels can also cause shaky hands, so it’s important to get an official diagnosis.
What to do: Hold your right hand up in front of you, with your palm facing towards you, and your fingers together and straight.
Be concerned if: Your index finger (next to your thumb) is shorter than your ring finger (next to your little finger). That can be a warning sign of an increased risk of osteoarthritis, say researchers. It’s thought that the same hormonal factors, including lower levels of oestrogen, influence both finger-length ratios and the development of osteoarthritis.
How to fight it: Drink a glass of milk every day. It helps to delay osteoarthritis of the knee, which is the most common type associated with shorter index fingers. Women who drink seven glasses a week experience a slower rate of joint-space narrowing, an osteoarthritis risk factor where the gap between the joints becomes smaller due to cartilage loss.
And don’t swap your dairy: Yoghurt has no effect on knee osteoarthritis, and cheese can speed up its progression.
What to do: Cover one eye at a time and look at the vertical and horizontal lines created by a nearby door or window frame.
Be concerned if: Any of the lines look wavy or distorted rather than dead straight. Noticing that straight lines are starting to appear wavy is one of the most common signs of macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness and major vision loss in Singapore.
How to fight it: Book an appointment to see your optometrist, and add more spinach to your diet. Spinach is a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that play an important role in the health of the eye’s macula. Consuming more lutein and zeaxanthin has been shown to help slow the progression of macular degeneration.
READ MORE: 6 Quick And Easy Ways To Relieve Eye Strain At Work
What to do: Sit on the floor with your back against a wall, your legs stretched out in front of you and your toes pointing towards the ceiling. Bend forwards with your arms outstretched and see how far you can reach past your toes.
Be concerned if: You can’t touch your toes with your fingertips, instead of being able to reach past them. There’s a strong connection between physical flexibility and artery health, so the less flexible you are, the stiffer your arteries are likely to big. That’s a big risk factor for heart disease.
How to fight it: Try taking up yoga. The stretching exercises and poses that increase how flexible you are increase arterial flexibility, too.
Sleep Apnoea Status
What to do: Check how many times during the night you get up to go to the toilet.
Be concerned if: You regularly visit the bathroom to do a wee more than once a night. That’s a symptom of sleep apnoea, a disorder that increases the risk of stroke, depression and diabetes, when it’s left untreated.
Usually, a hormone is released when you’re mid-sleep that suppresses the need to urinate. But sleep apnoea prevents you from reaching the deeper stages of sleep, which means you’ll still get the urge to go to the toilet.
Don’t dismiss the risk if you don’t snore. Other sleep apnoea symptoms, including daytime fatigue, insomnia and morning headaches, are more common for women than snoring.
How to fight it: Lose five per cent of your body weight, which can improve sleep apnoea significantly. But specific treatments for the condition are also available, so talk to your GP if you’re worried.
Those concerned about their health should seek consultation from their trusted GP.
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