Simple Self-Tests
That Can Save Your Life

These at-home, do-it-yourself exams can often reveal more about your health than high-tech diagnostics.

Doctors often tout the high-tech diagnostics that now comprise much of the practice of medicine. These include lab analyses of tissue and blood, ultrasounds, angiograms, magnetic imaging, thermal imaging, visual scopes, and all manner of rediologic scans.

But sometimes a simple at-home, do-it-yourself exam can reveal more than the most advanced (and expensive) screenings. You don't have to be a doctor to perform these tests. You simply need to know what to look for.

The best part?

Because these self-tests are so easy to do, they can catch medical conditions early, before they become serious, even potentially saving your life. The other big advantage besides convenience is that they cost absolutely nothing.

Of course, if you do find something suspicious, you'll want to consult your doctor for confirmation and treatment.

Keep in mind that self-tests don't replace proper physicals and diagnosis by your doctor.

Check Fingernails

Nails that are white near the cuticle and red or brown near the tip can indicate kidney disease. Fingertips that are blue or clubbed can b a symptom of lung disease. This would likely be accompanied by other symptoms such as breathing impairment. These signs also can occur in toenails.

Hand Test

Put your hands together in a prayer position with the palms and all fingers pressed flat against each other. If you can't do that, or the pinky fingers wont lay flat, it may be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis.

Finger-to-Nose Test

Sit or stand and hold one arm straight out in front, index finger pointing forward. Close your eyes and touch your nose with your index finger. Then do the same with the other arm. Try it a few times, when you're rested and alert and have not been drinking. If you keep missing, it may be a sign of a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or Huntington's disease.

Stretch Test

For people who are middle-aged or older, this is a quick way to test the flexibility of arteries, which is important for heart health. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front, toes pointing up.  Bend form the hips and try to touch your toes. If you can't get anywhere near your toes, you may be at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, or deep vein thrombosis.

Pulse Test

Put two fingers on your pulse on the wrist and tap the rhythm with your foot for a minute. Or place two fingers on the side of our neck and tap out the rhythm with your other hand A rhythm that is irregular, skipping beats, pounding, or fluttering, is called arrhythmia.

Most often, it means that blood flow is restricted by plaque in the arteries and the heart has to work harder to pump blood, or there can be an electrical malfunction in the heart.

Either way, it's a sign of increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Irregular heartbeat can often be controlled by medications.

Breathing Test

The ability to exhale is an indication of lung health, and you can test yourself in two ways. Light a match in a room without drafts and let it burn halfway down. Hold it six inches away and, with your mouth wide open like you were at the dentist, try to blow it out. If you can't, there could be a respiratory problem.

Another test: Take a deep breath and exhale as quickly as you can, emptying all the air in your lungs. Taking more than 5 seconds to exhale not counting the time to breathe in) means it's time to get checked by your doctor.

Hernia Test

If you have chronic pain in the abdomen, here's how to tell if i's a hernia: Tense your muscles as though you're having a bowel movement and feel the painful area with your hand. If you can feel a bulge of intestines through abdominal muscles, it could be a hernia, which requires prompt medical attention.

If, on the other hand, you feel no bulge, you have strained abdominal muscles, which is usually not a serious condition. Give them a rest and the pain should go away.

Reflex Test

An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), with symptoms such as unexplained weight gain and feeling cold, especially in the extremities, is a common problem, especially in women over 60. As a test, sit on the edge of a table or chair high enough to keep your feet above the floor, and check your own reflexes.

Give a sharp tap on the tendon between the bottom of the knee cap and the shin bone. If your lower leg doesn't immediately kick upward, or takes a while to sink back to its starting position, your thyroid is to take your temperature when you first wake up in the morning If it is consistently under 98.6 degrees, that could include hypothyroidism.

Shaky Hand Test

A thyroid gland that produces too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroididm) can make you feel anxious-even panicky- and cause unexplained weight loss. This is a quick way to check: Stretch one hand out in front, palm down. Put a sheet of paper on the back of your hand and see if it shakes. Some movement is normal, but if it's pronounced, or the paper falls off, it could mean your thyroid is working overtime, especially if you have other symptoms but are otherwise healthy or under age 40.

Nail Bed Test

Most often caused by an iron deficiency, anemia means the blood is not delivering enough oxygen throughout the body. Symptoms can include feeling tired, cold, dizzy, and irritable, having a headache or being short of breath.

Here's a quick test: While holding one hand higher than your heart, press firmly on a nail bed. It will turn white- then let go. If it takes more than two seconds for its pink color to return, indicating the blood returned to that spot, you likely have anemia, especially if other symptoms are also present.

Palm Test

Open the palm of your hand and check the deep lines. Are the creases pale?

This could be due to an iron deficiency, which is common in women, Low iron can cause fatigue, reduce immunity, and harm the ability to concentrate.

Mole Test

Count the number of moles on your entire body. You'll need a mirror or the help of a partner. If you have more than 50, you're at increased risk for melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. This means you should see a dermatologist at least once a year for a skin check.

Eye Test

If you notice a thick white line circling the edge of the iris (the colored part of the eye), it could be a sign of high cholesterol. Pull down your lower eyelid and look inside. If you see bumps that look like cobblestones, it can indicate an allergy, most commonly involving dust, pet dander, or mold.

*Source: Health Radar- September 2014 Issue