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They’ll help keep tabs on pretty much everything, from your brain to body strength. Future-proofing your wellbeing starts here
Stand on one leg, on stable ground, ideally barefoot. Use the stopwatch on your phone to test if you can balance for 20 seconds.
YOU PASSED? Good news! Researchers in Japan found that, in a few cases, an inability to balance can be linked with small blood vessel damage in the brain, which may indicate a risk of stroke or cognitive decline in the future.
YOU COULD DO BETTER? ‘Physical and brain health are closely related,’ says Philippa Tyrrell, recently retired Professor of stroke medicine at the University of Manchester. And some risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, furred-up arteries and atrial fibrillation (AF), are risk factors for dementia. But don’t fret – lifestyle tweaks can help reduce your risk of both. ‘Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity that makes you slightly breathless, five times a week,’ says Philippa. ‘Swap processed carbs for fruit and veg, and avoid salty food. Get your blood pressure checked from time to time, as well as your pulse – an irregular pulse can be a sign of atrial fibrillation.’ Boots Pharmaceuticals Advanced Blood Pressure Monitor With Atrial Fibrillation Alert*, £99.99/ 9,999 points, helps keep an eye on both.
Use a finger on one hand to firmly press down on any nail on the other hand. The skin under the nail will turn pale. Check if it quickly returns to a healthy pink after you stop pressing.
YOU PASSED? If the nail bed goes back to pink sharpish, it’s a good sign. Research has found that, if this isn’t the case, it can be an indication you have iron-deficiency anaemia. This is when your body doesn’t have enough iron, leading to a decreased production in red blood cells. If you have other symptoms, such as tiredness, mood swings and shortness of breath, you should see your GP.
YOU COULD DO BETTER? You might want to ask your GP for a blood test to check if you have a low red blood cell count, particularly if you also feel tired all the time, or have heart palpitations or shortness of breath. If you’ve been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anaemia, you may be prescribed iron supplements. You should also try to ensure you eat an iron-friendly diet that includes lots of dark green vegetables, red and white meat, brown rice and dried fruit.
Make sure you have a clear floor space, and are barefoot and wearing comfy clothes. Try to sit on the floor without using your hands for support – then stand without support. Hint: crossing your ankles helps. NB: Don’t try this if you have arthritis or knee injuries, as it may put too much strain on your knees, advises personal trainer Christina Howells†.
YOU PASSED? If you can sit and stand without using your hands, your muscles are strong and you have good stability.
YOU COULD DO BETTER? This test offers an insight into your strength, flexibility and co-ordination, all of which are linked with longevity, according to research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. So you need to take some small steps to help improve things. ‘Work on your lower-body strength and your core,’ says Christina. ‘Aim for 30 squats a day, and build up gradually. For a stronger core, try the Superman exercise: lying face down, lift your arms and legs simultaneously and hold for as long as you can.’ Pilates is another great option: you can find a free video tutorial for beginners at nhs.uk.
Sit on a chair and ask someone to stand about a metre behind you and, in a hushed voice, say the following sounds in a random order: ‘mm’, ‘oo’, ‘ah’, ‘ee’, ‘sh’. Can you repeat them accurately?
YOU PASSED? Your hearing is great, but don’t take it for granted. If you have any worries, arrange to get tested pronto, as the sooner problems are picked up, the quicker they can be treated.
YOU COULD DO BETTER? If you didn’t do well at this test and you know you also mishear words when chatting, or the volume on the TV is so loud even the neighbours can hear when you’re watching Coronation Street, we don’t think it’ll come as a surprise that your hearing may not be up to scratch. ‘Over time, tiny hair cells in the inner ear can be damaged by a range of causes, including everyday wear and tear, and exposure to loud noise,’ says Karen Shepherd, director of professional standards at Boots Hearingcare. ‘It can be very tiring and stressful trying to keep up if you can’t hear properly, so see a Boots Hearingcare expert for a free assessment.’ (For more info, check out the box, below.)
Press the tops of your wrists together, fingertips facing the floor. Hold for 60 seconds to see if you feel any tingling, burning or numbness.
YOU PASSED? If you have no symptoms, that’s great, but it’s smart to look after your wrist and hand health anyway. Ask your employer for a workstation assessment to ensure you’re sitting and using the mouse correctly. And take regular breaks – use the Stand Up! Work Break Timer app (free on iOS) as a reminder.
YOU COULD DO BETTER? If you felt any of the sensations above, it could mean you have carpal tunnel syndrome. This common condition is due to compression of the median nerve in the wrist, and can become debilitating if left untreated. Risk factors include doing strenuous, repetitive work with your hands, pregnancy, family history and illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. If you’re worried, see your GP. They may refer you to a physio, you might need a wrist splint for support (consider the New Neo G Wrist Brace, £16/1,600 points), or your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid injections to help ease the pain. In some cases, the condition gets better on its own after a few months, but if nothing else works, surgery may be an option.
There’s plenty of expert help available from Boots at the click of a button
You should have a sight check-up at least every two years. Remember that your optician will also be able to look for eye-health issues, such as glaucoma. To find out more, go to boots.com/eye-health.
DIABETES RISK ASSESSMENT
Type 2 diabetes is an increasing problem, and the early symptoms can be subtle. So why not try a free online risk assessment? Go to boots.com/diabetesrisk, where you’ll need to answer a few simple questions to help assess your risk of developing the condition in the next ten years.
Try an online assessment at bootshearingcare.com/check. Alternatively, you can book a free appointment in store. If you want to know how good your hearing is, have never had it tested or want to see if it’s changed, it usually takes around 15 minutes. We can offer a longer appointment if you’d like a full assessment and want to chat to a hearing aid audiologist.
Words Charlotte Haigh Illustration Rosie Scott/agencyrush.com