How healthy is your heart? A few weeks ago, Public Health England launched a new campaign to encourage all adults in the UK to take its online test to measure their "Heart Age" and subsequent risk of heart disease and stroke.
The idea was to help avert the 50 preventable deaths that occur daily from heart attack and stroke using a test people didn't need to leave their homes to complete, The Daily Mail reports.
But it's not the only test you can do in the comfort of your own home to find out more about your health. Here are ten more to try...
Note; None of these tests is a substitute for seeking medical opinion.
NECK MEASURE TEST FOR DIABETES RISK
Use a tape measure around your neck to check its circumference. If you're a woman and your neck measures over 36cm, or a man with a neck over 39cm, it could be an early warning of diabetes.
What's going on? A 2017 study from the University Hospital Medical University in Sofia, Bulgaria found that neck measurement predicted someone's risk of diabetes more effectively than the more common test of measuring around the waist — particularly in overweight or obese people.
Women and men with these neck measurements should "start active preventative strategies because they will likely develop metabolic syndrome if it's not already present," said lead investigator, endocrinologist Dr Zdravko Kamenov, in a statement issued after the meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists at which he presented the research.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms including obesity and high blood pressure which are linked to a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart attack or stroke.
Prevention of metabolic syndrome might include losing weight and/or doing more exercise, but if your measurement is very high you might also want to talk to your doctor about being tested for metabolic disease risk factors such as high blood sugar.
THE CRACKER TEST FOR WEIGHT GAIN
Put a plain cracker (such as a cream cracker or water biscuit) in your mouth and start to chew, keeping an eye on the time.
When does it start to taste sweet? This will show how well your body processes carbs or turns them into fat.
If it takes fewer than 14 seconds for that sweet taste to appear then you're OK on a diet with plenty of carbohydrates, but, if it takes more than 30 seconds, you don't metabolise carbohydrates effectively and therefore might store more calories from them.
What's going on? A lucky few can eat carb-heavy foods without piling on fat — because our bodies can process them very efficiently — others can't. According to Dr Sharon Maolem, the Canadian geneticist who created the cracker test, this shows you which camp you fall into, and may help explain why you struggle with your weight.
While the science isn't yet clear, it relates to your levels of amylase, an enzyme in saliva; this breaks starch down into sugar for the body to use for energy.
Some people have up to 50 times more amylase so break down carbs more readily, which is why the food tastes sugary faster.
If you don't metabolise carbs so well, reduce your portions of starchy carbs such as rice, bread and pasta and fill up on plenty of fibre-filled vegetables instead.
ANKLE COLOUR TEST FOR VARICOSE VEINS
Sit down and put your ankles together and compare their colour. If the skin of one is darker than the other or has dark patches, it's possible that you have hidden varicose veins in that leg.
What's going on? While varicose veins often show as blue or purple bulging veins in the legs, up to half of those with varicose veins have problems in deeper veins which show no overt sign of the condition, says Dr Mark Whiteley, a consultant venous surgeon based at The Whiteley Clinic in London.
"If they are present, inflammation may occur in the blood vessels of the ankle which can darken the skin. Another telltale sign of hidden varicose veins is feelings of heaviness in the legs at the end of the day that go away if you sit with your legs propped up against the wall for five minutes."
While most of us think of varicose veins as a cosmetic problem, left untreated they can not only cause discomfort but in severe cases, lead to complications such as blood clots or ulcers. Treatments range from the use of compression stockings to take pressure off the vein to using lasers or other technology to seal the vein.
THE TOE-TOUCH TEST FOR HEART DISEASE
Sit on the floor with your back and head pressed against the wall.
Bend forward from the waist keeping your back straight and try to touch your toes. If you are over 40 and can't get anywhere near them you could be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
What's going on? This is based on a study by the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan published in 2009 which found that in middle-aged and older people, those with poor flexibility also had stiff arteries.
And when the arteries become stiff, there is less movement of blood around — including to the heart.
Turn things around by generally becoming more active which increases flexibility and improves cardiovascular fitness. Stretching after your workout will also help boost flexibility.
THE WINDOW FRAME TEST FOR SIGHT LOSS
Look at a door frame or large window frame from across a room. Look first with your right eye only (put your palm over your left eye for 30 seconds), then your left eye only.
If you see a bend in the frame's straight line it can be a sign of an eye condition called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of loss of sight in the UK and the leading cause of blindness for people over 50.
What's going on? AMD occurs when waste products build up, dislodging the macula, the centre of the retina, which is the part of the eye responsible for central vision — or as a result of abnormal blood vessels developing in the macula. Blood and other substances then leak from weak newly formed blood vessels.
One of the first signs of it can be where suddenly things that would originally have appeared straight — such as a doorframe — appear wavy or crooked, explains Dr Nigel Best, an optometrist and clinical spokesman for Specsavers.
However, you might not notice it as you go about your day-to-day activities as the eyes compensate for mistakes in our vision.
This test is no substitute for a regular eye examination which an spot many other related problems with the eye as well — "if you notice any distortion urgently seek help from your optometrist or doctor," he says.
THE CURLED SPINE TEST FOR BACK PAIN
This test is for those who have back pain. Sitting in a chair, let your chin drop to your chest and curl your back round. Lift your leg in front of you to straighten your knee, and finally, pull your toes towards you.
Do the test slowly and stop immediately if pain increases at any point. If you do feel pain during this test it's more likely that it originates from the sciatic nerve than, say, a pulled muscle.
What's going on? The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. Sciatic pain can be caused by problems with, or degeneration of, the discs in the back that then press on the nerves.
It's unlikely to disappear on its own and if it is left untreated it can cause permanent nerve damage. 'Sciatic pain needs specialist intervention to help it get better faster,' says physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst, from Your Pilates Physio.
THE SWEETCORN TEST FOR BOWEL HEALTH
Eat a tablespoon of sweetcorn — alone or as part of a meal — and note how long it takes for the first kernels to appear in your faeces. Ideally this should be in 12 to 48 hours — faster than this can lead to poor nutrient absorption, longer can signify constipation or more serious problems.
What's going on? Sweetcorn is hard for the body to digest which makes this test a simple way of checking what's known as gut transit time — how long it takes for food to pass through your body — as you can see exactly when it has passed through.
A 2016 study at the National Food Institute of Denmark suggests slow transit may increase risk of cancer. 'The longer it takes food to pass through the colon, the more harmful bacterial degradation products are produced, which may potentially damage the cells of the bowel,' researcher, Henrik Munch Roager told Good Health.
"But also, in case of a slow transit time, the gut bacteria feed on the protective mucus layer in your gut, and a bowel with a thinner mucosal layer may be more prone to damage."
If your bowel is sluggish, drink more water, eat more fibre — the recommended daily intake is 30g a day and good sources are fruit, vegetables, wholegrains such as brown rice or granary bread and nuts. You can achieve this by having, for instance, a large bowl of porridge plus dried fruit, plus sweet potato for lunch and three slices of seedy wholegrain bread.
Being more physically active will also speed things up.
THE TOE TAP TEST FOR FAULTY HEART BEAT
Find your pulse at your neck or wrist, then try to tap your foot to the beat for a full minute. Any irregularities in the speed of your pulse can indicate irregularities in the heart rhythm.
A pulse that skips or speeds up could be a sign of a heart condition called atrial fibrillation — untreated, it can lead to heart attack and stroke.
What's going on? Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart rhythm problem, affecting over a million Britons. It causes the heart to beat in a chaotic, or irregular way, explains Mark Mason, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust.
"The heart might speed up unnecessarily which, if it happens a lot, can lead to weakening and heart failure, or the heart can also slow down inappropriately at times and cause blackouts.
"Another major risk for some patients with atrial fibrillation is the development of blood clots.'
If you have signs of atrial fibrillation, see your doctor as soon as possible for a proper test such as an ECG. Treatment can range from blood thinning medication to surgery.
THE TOE TICKLE TEST FOR NERVE DAMAGE
Take off your shoes and socks and lie with your legs straight. Close your eyes and ask a friend to simply touch each of your toes with their index finger for one second in this order: right big toe, right little toe, left big toe, left little toe, right middle toe, left middle toe.
When you feel the touch say left or right to signify which foot you felt the sensation on.
This test is important for those with diabetes as high blood sugar can damage the nerves in the feet. According to Diabetes UK, who suggest the test to its members, feeling five or six touches is a good sign, but if you felt any fewer, see your GP for advice.
What's going on? Nerve damage in the extremities is one complication of diabetes and it can lead to problems including foot ulcers or even amputation. But because the very nature of the condition is a loss in sensation many people don't realise they have it.
This technique is known as the Ipswich test and was shown to predict this nerve damage in 81.2 per cent of people in a 2011 trial carried out at the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust.