The most important way to stay healthy? We should check in regularly with their doctors and let them know when any suspicious symptoms arrive. But in between those doctor visits, some at-home tests and self-checks can be done in the privacy of your own bathroom or everywhere. In fact, these DIY health assessments can sound the alarm for a number of health conditions — from breast cancer to high blood pressure — and they could just save your life.
We have put together a series of simple tests you can do to estimate the risk of developing some diseases and figure out whether you need to see a specialist.
How to Do a Self Breast Exam
Giving yourself regular self breast exams can help you detect changes in your breasts so you can report them to your doctor ASAP. Do you know how to perform this important women’s health check?
First, stand with your upper body unclothed and look at your breasts in a mirror. Look for changes like dimpling, redness, or scaliness of the skin or nipples, and note any differences between the two breasts.
Next, lie down (this is a change from previous recommendations to do this exam standing in the shower). Raise your right arm above your head. Use the three middle fingers of your left hand to feel all over your right breast, beginning at the armpit. Repeat with your other breast.
Stroke and dementia
You need a timer for this test. Lift your leg up so that the hip is parallel to the floor and start the timer. If you can stand like this for 20 or more minutes, it means you have minimal risk of having a stroke or developing dementia. And vice versa: if you have trouble maintaining balance on one leg, it might indicate problems with vessels of the brain.
How to Take the Home HIV Test
Concern over the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is nothing to ignore: HIV can cause AIDS. There’s only one home HIV test that is approved by the U.S. government, and it’s called “The Home Access HIV-1 Test System” or “The Home Access Express HIV-1 Test System.” This HIV test is available at pharmacies, by mail order, and online.
Here’s how the home HIV test works:
- Using a personal identification number (PIN), you anonymously mail a blood sample you collect yourself to a lab for professional testing.
- Use the PIN to get your results.
- Bonus: The system also provides confidential counseling.
Heart and lung disease
Make your fingers in the shape of an upside down letter J and put your nails against one another. Do you see a tiny diamond between them? Great, this means that your heart and vessels are perfectly healthy.
If there is no space between your fingernails, it may be a sign of nail clubbing. The fact that fingers become thicker means that the blood doesn’t have enough oxygen. Oxygen deficiency can be caused by multiple reasons. For example, cardiovascular diseases, lung problems, and gastrointestinal issues.
How to Check Your Heart Rate
Heart disease is a serious women’s health condition (it’s the No. 1 killer of women in the United States). Fortunately, checking your own heart rate (pulse) can help uncover problems with your ticker.
To find your pulse, place your index and middle fingers on the underside of your opposite wrist, just below the base of the thumb. Count your heartbeats for one minute. A resting pulse for adults should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If it’s consistently higher or lower, or if you detect an irregular heartbeat, call your doctor.
How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is another common women’s health condition — and it’s also a major risk factor for heart disease. A home blood pressure monitor is probably a good investment, especially if you already have hypertension. Normal readings are at or below 120/80.
Here are some things to keep in mind during your test:
- Measure your upper arm circumference before you purchase a monitor. Make sure the cuff size fits your arm (these measurements are included on the box).
- Make sure it’s easy to use and read.
- Ask your doctor’s office to check it for accuracy at every visit.
When standing in front of a mirror, pull your lower eyelid down. If the color is pink, everything is okay. However, if you have anemia, the color may be a pale pink or even yellowish. Anemia is caused by a lack of hemoglobin and indicates that the muscles and tissues in the body aren’t receiving enough oxygen and can’t work at 100%. If you notice that you are pale, you get tired quickly, or breathe heavily, you should get a doctor to examine you.
How to Test for Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
If you’ve ever had a UTI, you’re familiar with the dreadful symptoms (the persistent need to urinate — and the burning sensation when you do). If you suspect that you have a UTI, an over-the-counter urine test can detect it right away.
Call your doctor if you test positive because you’ll need to start antibiotics to clear up the bacterial infection. Left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys and cause a more serious problem. If the test is negative, but you still have symptoms, be sure to follow up with your doctor.
Hormonal imbalance and lack of microelements
Losing hair is a natural process. According to doctors, we lose from 50 to 100 hairs every day. There is nothing to worry about. But in order to understand when it’s time to worry, you can do a simple test.
- Your hair should be dry and clean. Take a small lock of hair and pull. Don’t pull too hard. If you have only about 2-3 hairs in your hand, it’s perfectly normal. If you have more, you should visit a specialist.
There can be a lot of reasons why people lose hair: stress, poor hygiene, or serious health issues. Hair often becomes thin due to a hormonal imbalance or nutrient deficiency. These symptoms should not be ignored.
How to Check Your Skin for Malignant Moles
The American Academy of Dermatology suggests carefully checking your birthday suit on every birthday — a women’s health check that many of us neglect. If you notice any moles or spots changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist (a skin care specialist) to get them evaluated for skin cancer, an increasingly common women’s health condition. Most types are very treatable, if caught early.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
This test can detect a professional problem of office workers, artists, and bikers — carpal tunnel syndrome.
Lift your hands up so that your forearms are parallel to your face. Try to reach the base of the palm with the tips of your fingers. If you can do this for 1-2 minutes, you are fine. But if you have tingling, numbness, or pain in your wrists or fingers, this can be a sign of tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome appears when the neighboring tissues press on the median nerve. The pain and numbness will only get worse without the proper treatment.
How to Detect if You’re Depressed
Women’s health conditions aren’t all physical. Depression is very common among women — in fact, females are twice as likely as males to be diagnosed with the condition. The signs and symptoms of depression include weight loss or gain, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and fatigue. If you think you’re at risk, take this depression screening quiz on our partner site, PsychCentral.com, to help you get to the bottom of your blues. Most importantly, call a mental health professional if you suspect you are experiencing depression.
In order to do this test, you need help. Ask a partner to take a pencil with an eraser. Get them to touch your foot and toes with the sharp end of the pencil and with the eraser, in turns. Can you tell which side of the pencil touched you without looking?
If you don’t fully feel the touch, it means that the nerve endings on your feet don’t function properly. Low sensitivity can be an indicator of diabetes.
While lying on the floor, put your feet up at a 45° angle and keep them up for several minutes. Now, evaluate the color of your feet. Really pale (almost white) feet and toes indicate very bad blood circulation. The change in color can be seen in both feet or in just one.
Peripheral arteries deliver the blood to the limbs. And when the arteries get clogged, the muscles don’t get enough oxygen and unpleasant symptoms like numbness, pain, and others may appear. This condition is called peripheral artery disease (PAD) and it’s hard to notice the symptoms in the beginning. If left untreated, PAD can lead to heart attack and stroke.
In order to do this test, you need to be in a quiet room. Put your hand close to your ear and rub your fingers together. Do you hear the sound? Then, put your hand as far from your ear as you can and rub your fingers together again. Can you still hear the sound? Congratulations, your hearing is alright. Don’t forget to do the same with the other ear.
Predisposition to developing cardiovascular diseases
In order to do this test, you will have to leave your house. Climb a ladder (8-12 steps) while singing a song. Or you can talk on the phone or read something. The most important thing is to talk. If you feel your heart pounding and you can’t breathe well, it means that your cardiovascular system and lungs can’t handle the physical activity.
We want to remind you that self-made tests can’t replace the professional opinion of a doctor. And if you have any symptoms that are worrying you, you should see a doctor immediately.
Which of these tests seemed the most interesting to you?