Health MOT check - 20 Ways To Check-In
Knowing your own body and being aware of any changes is a vital part of checking in and maintaining your health. Here’s some expert advice on getting started and setting some wellness goals for the year ahead.
What’s on the outside is a reflection of what’s on the inside.
How your skin looks and feels can be a great indicator of what’s happening on the inside. For example, dry skin can be a sign that you’re dehydrated. What we eat and how well we sleep can also affect our skin health.
“While it’s recommended to carry out a full body check once a month, I advise checking your skin every three months as it’s a more realistic goal,” explains Dr Kurt Ayerst, senior dermatology consultant at Benenden Hospital. “To carry out a skin check, put around 10 minutes aside, stand in front of a full-length mirror and scan from head to toe, on the front and back of your body."
“When you see something new or different, don’t panic but don’t ignore it. It’s very likely it won’t be anything to worry about but it’s a good idea to see your GP.
“Taking photos of your moles can help you to compare them over time. Mole differences to look out for include a change in size, elevation or colour, and if they start to itch.”
Why you should aim to move more and sit less.
Physiotherapy lead at Benenden Hospital, Jordan Dehara, feels people of all ages can benefit from following World Health Organization guidance to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This can be spread across four or five days and can be any form of activity you enjoy (as you’re more likely to keep it up).
“It’s important that you move more and spend less time sitting as this is bad for your health,” advises Jordan. “Setting an alarm to remind you to walk around after an hour is a great way to break up sedentary periods.”
Cheryl Lythgoe, Society Matron at Benenden Health, adds that non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) movement is also important. This is all the daily movements that expend energy, except for sleeping, eating and carrying out structured exercise.
Increase your NEAT level by marching on the spot while you wait for the kettle to boil or doing a few squats while brushing your teeth. The goal is to move more – in any way you can.
Some poo pointers to keep your gut in good shape.
“If you regularly empty your bowels without any issues, it’s a sign of good bowel health,” says Mr Jacek Adamek, consultant general and colorectal surgeon at Benenden Hospital.
“Checking your poo is a good way to establish whether or not everything is in order. Symptoms such as having blood in your stools, chronic diarrhoea or constipation, bowel incontinence or pain could indicate bowel disease. Urgency to go to the toilet is a common symptom of gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome.”
Mr Adamek adds: “Bloating after eating could be due to eating too quickly or it could be suggestive of food intolerance or a condition such as IBD.”
Take one thing at a time.
Don’t overcomplicate things when it comes to changing your diet, advises Society Matron Cheryl Lythgoe. “Start with one aspect of your diet such as switching from whole milk to semi-skimmed,” she explains. “If you’re aiming to eat your five-a-day, try to eat more vegetables than fruit as this helps you add more colour to your meals and provides a better range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
“If you have a weight loss goal in mind, break it down into smaller steps and simply focus on your immediate mini-goal such as losing just two pounds to start with.”
Healthier ways to de-stress.
Many of us may drink alcohol to de-stress, but we need to find healthier ways to minimise stress, advises Cheryl Lythgoe.
“Drinking over the recommended 14 units of alcohol per week can increase your risk of certain cancers. Instead of drinking alcohol, try de-stressing with a kitchen disco, go for a walk or have a relaxing bath instead.”
Getting outdoors into nature via a daily walk is another way to reduce stress and become more present and aware of the sights, sounds and smells that are all around you.
20 ways to check in on your health
Use this handy checklist as a reminder to check in on you and your family’s health.
1. How do you feel after food?
Check in with yourself after meals – for example, do you feel bloated or gassy after food?
2. Are you checking my poo?
Colour and consistency are good indicators of your health.
3.Are you adequately protected from the sun?
Apply SPF30 sunscreen before you go outdoors and wear a hat for added protection.
4. Are you getting enough vitamin D?
We get most of our vitamin D from the sun but need supplement support in the colder months.
5. Are you up to date with my vaccinations?
Keeping up to date with your annual flu and Covid booster jabs will bolster your immunity.
6. Have you hit my five-a-day?
Try to add one more portion of veg to your meals – soups or smoothies are easy ways to up your veg intake.
7. Have you been outside today?
Getting out into the fresh air is beneficial for your mental and physical health.
8. Does your skin look different?
Getting to know your skin better can help you to spot anything new or different such as a changed mole.
9. Are you drinking enough water?
Straw or Champagne-coloured urine means you’re adequately hydrated. You should aim to drink at least 2 litres a day.
10. What’s your alcohol intake?
We’re advised to have at least two alcohol-free days per week.
11. Do you get out of breath more than you used to?
Getting in the habit of moving more can help to gradually increase your fitness levels.
12. Do you go to the loo a little too often?
We all vary in how regularly we go but be on the lookout for changes to your usual routine.
13. When did you last get my blood pressure checked?
It’s important to know your numbers as high blood pressure often has no symptoms at all.
14. How well are you sleeping?
The odd night of poor sleep is very common but if worries are regularly keeping you awake at night, ask for help.
15. When did you last check your breasts?
A thorough check includes feeling along the four quarters of your breast and under the arms.
16. When did you last check your testicles?
It’s important to check regularly for any unusual lumps or bumps.
17. How much have you moved today?
Try to incorporate more movement into your daily routine as much as you can.
18. How well have you moved today?
If you’ve noticed you feel stiff when you get out of a chair or you’re nursing a niggling injury, make time for a physio chat.
19. How well do you manage stress?
Finding ways that work for you is key to minimising the effects of stress on your health.
20. What made you smile today?
Noticing the good things that happen each day is important for your mental wellbeing.
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