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10 Instant Health Checks

The following section gives you advice on ten simple health checks that can give you a top-to-toe check up.

1 - Taste

Put blue food colouring on a cotton bud and swab it over your tongue. With a magnifying glass, count the number of little blue dots (taste buds) near the front of your tongue. If there are more than 20 blue dots, you have an extremely good sense of taste and could be what's known as a 'supertaster' but this may not be such a good thing. This supertasting can be associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. Veg such as broccoli cabbage or sprouts contain bitter compounds which help protect against cancer but these compounds may taste too intense for the supertaster. Therefore simple add a low-fat dairy product such as ricotta cheese to netralise the taste.

2 - Fluid Retention

With your thumb, press firmly down in three to four places up and down your legs. Do the areas stay white for a few seconds after you take away your  thumb? If so you have fluid retention - especially if your ankles and knees look puffy also. To remedy this try reducing the amount of salt in your diet and cut out processed foods. Also drinking water can help flush out the sodium and ease the problem.

3 - Iron Deficiency

Hold out your hand, palm up, and push your fingers back. Your palm will pale, but do the deep lines on your hand go white too? If they do, it could be a sign of anaemia, probably triggered by a lack of iron in your diet. Your GP will be able to confirm this with a blood test. If you are anaemic increasing your intake of red meat and green leaf veg can help.

4 - Food Tolerance

Put a level tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda into a glass of water, stir and drink. Do you burp immediately? If so that is good. Putting an alkaline substance into and acid environment (your stomach) creates gas, if you do not burp your acid levels are low and you won't be absorbing all the nutrients from your food, which could leave you lacking essential minerals

5 - Vision

Walk 20 full strides away from a parked car. Can you read the number plate clearly? Any distortion or blurring means you may not be seeing well enough to be legally safe to drive

6 - Cholesterol

Look at the skin above and below the eyes. Can you see any flat yellow bumps? These are deposits of fat that can indicate a raised cholesterol level. If you find them its best to get things checked out with your GP, but don't panic.

7 - Digestive health

Ever wondered if the bloating you get from certain foods is linked to a food intolerance? Then this test is for you. Take your pulse, then sit quietly and eat a medium-to-large portion of the food you think is causing the problem.* Now, take your pulse rate again. If it has increased by more than ten beats per minute, you probably have an intolerance. No one knows exactly why this test works but its incredibly accurate.

8 - Lung Function

Stand about 30cm away from a lighted candle and with your mouth open breathe out sharply and fully with a huffing sound. Did it go out? If not it might be a warning sign for asthma, especially if you have other symptoms, such as night-time coughing. If you have no other symptoms but still failed your lungs aren't as elastic as they should be - this is a sign that you need to improve your general fitness.

9 - Candida

First thing in the morning, spit a large blob into a glass of water. If after 30 minutes the spit has white tendrils growing out of it or has gone grey, you may have an overgrowth of candida in your body. Digestive problems or a lowered immune system can trigger this and it is linked to problems from allergies to fatigue. If you get a positive result, see a nutritionist.

10 - Pelvic Floor

While sitting clench your pelvic floor muscles (the ones you use to stop yourself peeing) for ten seconds. Release and repeat until you can't do any more. Over 16 clenches is good anything less (especially under 10) means yours pelvic floor is weak, which increases risk of stress incontinence and sexual problems. To remedy this tighten your buttocks, then draw up your pelvic floor muscles until your tummy starts to hollow inwards, hold for six then release. Repeat 6 times daily.

These tests are not conclusive. IF you are worried that you have a health problem, make an appointment to see your GP.
*Do not do this test if you think you have an allergy to certain foods (for example, rashes, breathing difficulties or swelling). Allergies must be diagnosed by a professional.

Reference: Your Health. The complete Guide to Health, Fitness & Well-being. The Independent. January 9th 2006.