You know your body better than any doctor, which means it's important to stay clued in to subtle changes. While blood tests at regular checkups are one way to monitor your health, you don't always need a finger prick to find out what's happening on the inside. Research shows there are easy ways to gauge wellness—tests you can do in the comfort of your living room. And remember: There's no failing. Think of the results as your baseline, and then talk to your doctor about how to improve.

1. The Sitting-Rising Test

Without leaning on anything, lower yourself to a seated position on the floor with your legs crossed, and then stand up again. The maximum score is 10 points—5 for going from standing to sitting and 5 for getting back up again. Deduct 1 point each time you use a hand, forearm, knee, or the side of your leg to support yourself. Deduct half a point if you're unsteady while performing the test.

What it tells you: A 2012 study of more than 2,000 adults revealed that subjects who scored below 8 had a two- to fivefold higher risk of death over the next six years. On the flip side, every point increase was associated with a 21 percent improvement in survival. What's the connection? The test serves as a solid measure of musculoskeletal fitness, which has been associated with life expectancy. Scored low? Don't panic. Do three sets of ten squats daily—you'll be amazed at how quickly you can get your score up.

2. The Smell Test

Here's one to do with a friend. Without letting her show you what you're smelling, see if you can identify the following odors: peppermint, fish, orange, rose, and leather. (Have her mix in a few others to throw you off.) Getting at least four out of five right suggests you have a normal sense of smell.

What it tells you: University of Chicago researchers used a similar test to predict mortality in older adults. By the end of the five-year study, subjects who identified only one scent (or none at all) were more than three times as likely to have died compared to those who had a nose for four or more of the scents. While the researchers aren't clear on how smell and longevity are linked, one possible explanation is that your olfactory system depends on the formation of new stem cells; when that decreases, it could mean a decline in cell regeneration in other critical areas of the body, too.

3. Phalen's Carpal Tunnel Test

Place your elbows on a table, forearms vertical. Flex your wrists and allow your hands to fall freely forward, forming a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for one minute.

What it tells you: If you feel any numbness, tingling, or pain in your fingers or palms, you could be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when the nerve that runs through the wrist to your hand becomes compressed. This test is able to reproduce symptoms that you may not notice normally. Women are roughly three times more likely than men to develop the condition; this may be due, in part, to anatomy: Smaller wrists mean there's less room for the nerve to snake through. To help keep carpal tunnel at bay, check your posture. Slouching your shoulders can compress the nerves in your neck, which in turn may affect your wrists, hands, and fingers. In other words, sit up straight!

4. The Reaction Time Test

Find a reaction time test online that asks you to click a button in response to a particular change, like a shift in color or number of objects. There are many options—for a fun one, Google "sheep reaction time test."

What it tells you: A 2014 study of more than 5,000 adults in the journal PLOS One found that a one-second slower reaction time (from the average) was associated with a 25 percent higher risk of death in the next 15 years, and a 36 percent higher chance of dying specifically from cardiovascular diseases. A faster or slower reaction time may be associated with the overall health of your central nervous system, which can be a pretty good gauge of how the rest of your body is doing as well.

Mehmet Oz, MD, is the host of The Dr. Oz Show (weekdays; check local listings).


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