Listening to Your Body's 4 Secret Signs

You may not know it, but your body holds clues that could help you prevent serious disease years before getting a diagnosis.

Listening to Your Body's 4 Secret Signs

It tells you when you’re tired, when you’ve eaten enough, even when you might be coming down with a cold, but did you know that your body may also be your best early warning system for disease? New research is finding subtle physical clues that reveal whether you may be likely to develop certain serious diseases. By identifying and paying attention to them, we can all make little changes that could mean big improvements in our long-term health. Learn to read these 4 secret signs to decrease your risk and beat the odds. 


Your Height

A Randy Newman song says "short people don’t have a reason to live," but it turns out they may outlive their taller peers. According to a recent study published the National Academy of Sciences, people who are below 5’2” have a greater chance of living to age 100. Researchers speculate that the gene involved with assisting in the body’s recovery from oxidative stress (the cell damage that comes from the radiation we’re exposed to every day, the environment, activity and the foods we eat) is somehow related to the gene that determines height. Their guess is that people who are taller do not respond as well to oxidative stress.

What can you do?

Regardless of your height, if you are concerned about longevity, new research points to interesting ways to lengthen your life.

  • Prevent cardiovascular disease, which is the country’s leading cause of death and disability, through exercise and resistance training. (Ready to commit to a healthier heart? Take Dr. Oz’s Heart Healthy Challenge.)
  • Reduce your calorie intake, which new research suggests can slow metabolism and cell death, helping you live longer. The studies have looked at reductions of about 25%, but if that’s not realistic (or healthy) for you, shoot for 10%.
  • Eat a colorful diet, which will be rich in antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables.
  • Get 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times per week (the more, the better).
  • Log 7 hours (or more) of sleep nightly to repair your cells and generate the growth hormone necessary to increase bone density and lower body fat (which has been linked to many diseases). Get tips from Dr. Oz to improve your sleep hygiene.

Your Sense of Smell

A study published in the Annals of Neurology found that people who couldn’t identify the scent of bananas, lemons, cinnamon, or other common household items were as much as 5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. The reason may be that the olfactory center of our brains (the area responsible for helping us smell) is one of the earliest parts of the brain hit by Parkinson’s. Losing your ability to appreciate or distinguish certain smells may happen as early as 7 years before an official diagnosis, so taking note early can help you do what you can to ward off this neurological condition.

What you can do

Research suggests that Omega-3 fatty acids may help build resistance to the toxin that causes Parkinson’s symptoms.

  • Add some Omega-3 rich foods to your diet such as wild-caught salmon, shrimp, walnuts and flax seed oil. 

Your Calf Size

Here’s some news to comfort you come shorts-wearing weather: Skinny calves may increase your risk of suffering from a stroke. French researchers have discovered that women with calves less than 13 inches in circumference are at a greater risk for stroke. It turns out that these women were more likely to develop carotid plaques, which can break loose, travel to your brain and cut off circulation, causing a stroke. The researchers speculate that the fat under your skin in the back of your calf may help pull fatty acids away from your blood vessels (where they can travel up to the carotid artery in your neck) and store them safely in your calf.

What you can do

Of course, this is no reason to go out and grab a pint of ice cream (being overweight and unhealthy is a proven risk of cardiovascular disease), but if you are blessed with miniskirt-worthy calves, you may want to add an item to your anti-stroke arsenal.

  • Guzzle green tea. Men studied in Japan who drank more than 5 cups daily and were found to have the lowest stroke risk of anyone in the study.

Your Leg Length

British researches have discovered that women with legs between 20 – 29 inches tend to have higher levels of 4 enzymes that indicate liver disease. It’s not that leg length in and of itself contributed to liver disease,  but that shorter legs are an indication of poor childhood nutrition, which may also play a role in liver function.

What you can do

Be kind to your liver by:

  • Limiting your alcohol intake to one beer or glass of wine per day.
  • Increasing your intake of liver-healthy cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.

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