More than half of us with health concerns put off a visit to the GP so here are some signs you need to make an appointment

WE get our cars MoT-checked each year, so why not take our health as seriously?

More than half of us put off going to a GP when we have health fears, a recent poll says.

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More than half of us delay going to the doctor when we have health concerns[/caption]

Changes such as unexplained weight loss, tiredness or bleeding could be signs you need to see a doctor so it is important to keep an eye on your own body.

GP and medical writer, Dr Mary Lowth, says: “To know what’s changed means knowing and checking yourself.

“If you do this regularly, you will notice changes early and you will know when it is time to see the GP.”

Lynsey Hope has tips for your health MOT – are you are an F1 Ferrari . . . or a clapped-out Fiesta.

Brain

TAKING a break from smartphones is an easy way to give your brain an MoT.

Consultant neurologist Dr Emer MacSweeney, says: “We’ve all become reliant on smartphones with the average person checking them 85 times per day, making the brain lazy.

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With the average person checking their phone 85 times a day it’s good to give your brain a break[/caption]

“People no longer need to memorise things such as calendar dates, phone numbers, maps, or directions.”

Check how your brain is functioning by doing simple exercises.

Dr MacSweeney says: “Try doing a sudoku puzzle. If you get easily distracted, your brain may be in need of a rest from technology. Take up an activity to get your brain back in shape, such as reading a book.”

Check: Daily.

Eyes

LONDON-based GP Dr Nathan Curran, says: “Gently pull down your lower eyelid. If it appears paler than usual, it could indicate that you have anaemia, which affects one in ten women in the UK.

“You could also look in the mirror for yellow discolouration of the whites of the eyes, which can be a sign of liver disease.

If you notice any changes in your eyes you should see your GP
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“If you notice any of these changes get it checked out by your GP.

“It’s important to have regular eye exams to check for ­conditions such as glaucoma.

“Other conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers can also be picked up by an eye specialist.”

Check: Every two years.

Tongue

DR Nathan Curran says: “It’s a good idea to regularly inspect your tongue as it can reflect your overall health.

“Have a look every day as you brush your teeth. A white-coated tongue can be a sign of a fungus infection. A red tongue can be due to vitamin B12 deficiency.

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A white-coated tongue can be a sign of a fungus infection while a red tongue can show a vitamin B12 deficiency[/caption]

“A black, furry tongue is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria on the surface and is indicative of poor dental hygiene.”

You may also notice bumps and valleys, or what is known as “geographic tongue”. Dr Curran says: “This condition causes a map-like pattern of reddish spots to develop on the surface.

“It’s usually harmless and will resolve on its own.”

Check: Daily.

Feet

“AS we age our feet change shape and size, especially as you go through hormonal changes,” says Emma McConnachie, from the College of Podiatrists.

“Insoles or supports might help, but it’s important to check regularly that you are wearing the right size and shape shoes.”

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As we get older our feet change shape and size[/caption]

To check, stand in your socks or tights on a piece of paper and have someone draw around each of your feet. Cut out the shapes and slide them inside your shoes.

Emma says: “If the paper starts to roll up at the sides or the front, it’s a sign shoes don’t fit properly.”

Also check your soles. “It’s a good way of making sure nothing new has developed,” Emma says.

Check: Daily.

Legs

IF you stand still all day, you increase your chances of developing varicose veins,” warns Dr Lowth.

“This is particularly true if you are pregnant, smoke, carry extra weight or have a family history of varicose veins.

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You could develop varicose veins if you stand still all day, are pregnant, smoke or carry extra weight[/caption]

“Varicose veins are prominent on the legs — you can feel as well as see them — and they swell when you are standing.

“They often ache or itch. Inspect yourself, naked, in the mirror, on a regular basis, looking for any changes. Do your legs look normal?

“If you have varicose veins, stop them worsening by supporting your legs better with regular exercise, such as walking, and by wearing support tights.”

Check: Weekly.

Tummy

“KEEPING a watchful eye on the look and feel of your tummy is important, particularly as you get older” says Dr Lowth.

“New pain or swelling, particularly if persistent, can indicate anything from common conditions such as IBS, coeliac disease, diarrhoea and constipation through to life-limiting diseases such as cancer and serious heart or liver disease.

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Pain or swelling in the stomach can indicate common conditions like IBS or something more serious[/caption]

“Check your tummy is in good health by checking that your waist size is the same.

“Check for weight changes if you think you look different — maybe checking your weight once a month anyway — and make sure your stools look normal for you.”

Check: Once a month.

Nails

“TAKE a break from wearing nail varnish every four to six weeks, so you can check on the condition of your nails,” says Dr Curran.

“See your GP if you have persistent yellow discolouration as in rare cases this can be a sign of fungal infection, thyroid disorders, psoriasis or diabetes.

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Check the condition of your nails as an indicator of a nutrient deficiency, infections or blood-sugar problems[/caption]

“Brittle, pale nails or changes in the shape of your nails could be a sign of nutrient deficiency.

“Eating a balanced diet with at least five portions of fruit and veg a day and taking a multivitamin can help resolve this.

“Frequent or persistent fungal infections in toenails could be an early indicator of blood sugar problems.”

Check: Every four to six weeks.

Cervix

“EVERY year, around 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer,” says Imogen Pinnell, of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.

“A smear test is the best way of protecting yourself.”

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Women between 25 and 49 should have a smear test every three years while women aged 50 to 64 should have one every five[/caption]

Women aged 25 to 49 should go for their smear test every three years and women aged 50 to 64 should attend every five years.

Imogen adds: “If you suffer abnormal bleeding — during or after sex, in between periods or post-menopausal bleeding — see your GP, even if you have had a clear screening test.

“Other symptoms include unusual vaginal discharge, discomfort or pain during sex and lower back pain.”

Check: Once every three-to-five years.

Boobs

COPPAFEEL! founder Kris Hallenga says: “It’s important to regularly check for signs of breast cancer.

You can do this in the mirror, in the shower, lying in bed, or get your partner to do it for you.

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Regularly check your breasts for lumps, changes in skin texture and abnormalities around the nipples[/caption]

“Get to know your boobs and work out what is normal for you. That will make it easy to spot any changes.”

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Women should look for changes in skin texture such as puckering and dimpling, feel for lumps and thickening and be wary of constant or unusual pain in the breast or armpit.

Look for nipple discharge and a rash or a crusting on or near the nipple. Kris says: “If you notice something isn’t normal, get it checked out.”

Check: Once a month.

Heart

ASHLEIGH LI, of the British Heart Foundation, says: “Women present very differently to men with coronary heart disease and are often misdiagnosed.

“With women, they can just feel nausea, they don’t always get pain in the chest, it can be in the shoulder or neck.

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As it is harder to spot heart disease in women it’s good to have your blood pressure checked[/caption]

“We advise people to get their blood pressure checked.

“You can go to your GP but, if you don’t want to book an appointment, lots have blood pressure cuffs in the waiting room.

“Pharmacies also have them and we are funding pop-up blood pressure clinics, too.”

Check: Every five years if you are under 40, healthy and well. Yearly if you are over 40. Weekly if you have had a previous high reading.

Skin

DR Walayat Hussain, from the British Association of Dermatologists, recommends: “Every couple of months, it’s important to spend an extra five minutes in the bath or the shower looking over your body and making sure that you are very familiar with what is on your skin.

“The key thing when it comes to noticing suspicious changes is to know what is there in the first place.

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Check over your skin to look for any irregularities – look for anything that isn’t settling[/caption]

“If you are concerned that any mole has changed shape, size or colour, or if you have symptoms such as itching or bleeding, get it checked out by your GP.”

It’s not just moles that you need to keep an eye on.

Dr Hussein adds: “There are two main different types of skin cancer. Melanoma is what you would find in a mole.

“But there is a more common type of skin cancer called non-melanoma which often just behaves like an old boil or spot that isn’t healing or won’t go away.

“It might look crusty or sore. Anything which isn’t settling should be checked.”

Check: Every two months.

…and for the men in your life

THE most obvious place to start for a man’s MoT is in his trousers.

Men should regularly check their testicles, with young men in particular more likely to get testicular cancer than any other cancer, according to the Movember Foundation.

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Men should regularly check for testicular cancer by looking out for lumps and changes in shape, size or consistency[/caption]

The charity says rates have doubled in the past 50 years and advise fellas to check their balls monthly.

They recommend the best place to do this is in a warm shower.

Men should rest them in the palm of their hand then gently roll one testicle between the thumb and fingers to get to know what is normal — then repeat on the other side.

If they discover anything unusual such as a hard lump, a change in shape, size or consistency, then get them to book an appointment with their GP to get it checked out properly.

Only around four in 100 lumps turn out to be cancer, so remember this is an uncommon cause.

As for their prostate, testing is not routinely offered on the NHS, although men over 50 can request a check and PSA blood test if they are concerned.

Check: Once a month (testicles).



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