Testing Your Health at Home
Sometimes life throws difficult situations at us. We might fall and break a leg or get in a car accident. Often, we’ll look back and say, “I didn’t see it coming,” or “It just came out of nowhere,” and we’re usually right.
But some things we can see coming – sometimes early enough to prevent or slow future damage. Take a look at the five tests below. Three of them are early warning tests. The results could help you and your doctor get in front of diseases and slow them down. The last two are fitness tests that can show your risk potential for early death or future disability.
Go ahead and give these tests a try. They could make the difference between, “I didn’t see it coming,” and, “I’m glad I caught it early.”
When we think Alzheimer’s, we think memory loss, right? Surprisingly, the sense of smell shows signs of dysfunction before anything else. But a diminished sense of smell is also common in normal aging. Peanut butter, however, is one of the few smells that retains potency even with a normal diminished sense of smell. This has allowed researchers to use peanut butter in smell tests to detect possible early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. They measured the distance at which participants could smell the peanut butter in the right nostril versus the left.
Test yourself at home
You’ll need a partner for this one. Ask your partner to stand 12 inches away with an open jar of peanut butter. Close your eyes and hold your left nostril closed. Ask your partner to slowly move the jar closer until you can smell the peanut butter. Repeat the process with your right nostril closed.
Participants with early Alzheimer’s detected the smell at a considerably further distance with their right nostril than they did with their left.
If you cannot smell the peanut butter at the same distance with both nostrils, contact your doctor to discuss and rule out treatable conditions that affect the sense of smell.
The inability to recognize or name famous faces in midlife has been associated with an increased risk for a form of dementia known as PPA (primary progressive aphasia). PPA is marked by a loss of tissue in the brain’s language centers, and it shows up as the gradual deterioration of communication with others.
Test yourself at home
Grab an entertainment magazine, a pen, and paper. Thumb through the magazine and name the celebrities you recognize. If you don’t recognize them, move on. (If you don’t know who Taylor Swift is, you can’t be expected to know her name just because you see her picture.) For the ones you do recognize, give yourself 2 points for first and last name, 1 point for first or last name, and 0 points for neither.
PPA patients scored less than 50% on a similar test.
If you struggle with this one, ask your doctor for a cognitive evaluation.
Just like the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease is often associated with tremors. But this chronic degenerative disease of the nervous system has other signs. Studies have found that constipation, trouble sleeping, and loss of smell may be early signs of Parkinson’s disease.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Have you been dealing with constipation for a month or more?
- Are you having problems with smelling pungent foods such as garlic?
- Do you thrash around in bed and kick or punch while sleeping?
Answering yes to any one of the above questions is not indicative of a problem. But if you answered yes to all three, talk to your doctor about the possibility of scheduling physical and neurological exams.
Two fitness tests
It’s generally understood that regular exercise is an important part of staying fit and healthy. The following two fitness tests can help determine whether your current fitness program is enough to help keep you out of trouble. Of course, nothing can guarantee that trouble won’t ever find you, but fitness levels usually make a big difference in recovery, too.
Sit down, stand up
How it works:
Sit on the floor, legs crossed. See if you can stand up using as little assistance as possible. Start with 10 points and subtract 1 point for each instance of support assistance. Support includes putting your hands on the floor, pushing up with your knees, or anything other than using your arms to balance yourself.
Why this test matters:
- Muscle strength, coordination, balance, and flexibility are especially important as you age. They can help to prevent the falls that are especially dangerous in later years.
- The difference of just one point is associated with 21 percent lower mortality.
Open that jar
How it works:
Open a tight jar lid. Pick up a full gallon of milk and carry it across the room. Lift a long-handled pan in one hand.
Why this test matters:
- Low grip strength is associated with disability in later life, postoperative complications, and premature death.
- The ability to squeeze things tightly may be as indicative as blood pressure when it comes to predicting heart disease and stroke.
- The more weight you can hold and the longer you can hold them, the better your overall fitness.
If you have trouble standing up from the table or the couch, or if you find it difficult to open jars or grip and carry items, talk with your doctor about a suitable exercise program that can help improve your overall fitness and coordination levels.
Maybe you need rehabilitation
At Bella Vista Health Centers, we know it can be frustrating to take tests like those above when your results aren’t what you want them to be. Because we help to rehabilitate people every day, we also know how exhilarating it can be to make that journey from frustration to confidence to amazing results.
Our skilled, compassionate staff includes nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other care providers – all dedicated to rehabilitating our clients back to their personal best.
Contact us or drop by our Lemon Grove location.
Let’s work together to get you to optimum health.