Just how healthy are you really? While the headlines bemoan the country’s escalating obesity and diabetes rates, a surprising 77% of Americans age 50 to 65 believe themselves to be in good or excellent health, finds a recent poll from Liberty Life Insurance Company.
The same poll revealed less than half of the respondents exercised three times a week. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get 2.5 hours of exercise a week, including at least two muscle-building activities like lifting weights or swimming.
That disconnect begs the question: Are you as healthy as you think? Look for clues with these simple at-home health checks—any one of which could reveal a potentially serious health issue to bring up with your doctor.
Waist-to-hip ratio: While waist circumference alone could indicate a weight problem, a more-accurate measure is waist-to-hip ratio, explains Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, assistant director of UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition. Measure the distance around your midsection at your belly button and divide that by the distance around your hips’ widest point. If the number is above 0.8, that could indicate unhealthy levels of abdominal fat, Bowerman says.
Energy levels: Feeling fatigued now and then is absolutely normal, says Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, CSSD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of MV Nutrition. But if you’re tired throughout the day, or you feel like you’re riding an energy roller coaster, that could signal poor sleep, vitamin deficiencies, or many other health concerns, Villacorta says.
Bowel movements: You should have one pretty much every day, Villacorta says. If you’re regularly going 2 or 3 days without, you’re probably not eating enough fiber, and you could be at risk for colon cancer and other adverse health issues, he explains.
Urine color: Your pee should be a very light yellow, like watered-down lemonade, Bowerman says. While some vitamins and medications may affect your urine color, darker urine—like iced tea or apple juice—usually means you’re not drinking enough fluid, she says. This can increase your risk for kidney disease and skin problems, and is especially common among seniors, whose thirst tends to dissipate, Villacorta adds. Bowerman says a good rule of thumb for any woman is to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid every day.
Hair falling out: Everyone loses hair every day (50 to 100 strands in normal, in fact). But if you notice even more strands coming out every time you brush your mane—or if you seem to be losing a lot more hair than you used to—low iron or protein levels could be the cause, Villacorta says. Lentils, beef, and spinach are all good iron sources.
Check your nails: If your fingernails crack or chip easily, or look yellow and cloudy, that could indicate nutrient or mineral deficiencies, Villacorta explains. He says specific diets—especially those that cut out whole food groups—are often to blame. Older women especially need to be sure to eat plenty of healthy fats from food sources like avocados and olive oil.
To learn more, visit Prevention.com.
By Markham Heid