Even when you know how to make healthy choices, it’s tempting to give into laziness during busy or stressful times. Unfortunately, when you pay less attention to living a balanced life, your body takes the brunt. Our bodies are very sensitive to internal and external stimuli, meaning that even small changes can start to impact mood, says New York City-based personal trainer James Shapiro. “Those feelings [that may arise] can be a result of poor nutritional choices, excessive alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, poor stress management, and lack of movement,” he explains. All of these things can impact your organ function, hormone levels, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and more. Typically, your body will send signs that you’re not paying attention to your health. Here, experts share the tell-tale signs that your health is lagging.
You’re stiff to the point of pain.
After a really strenuous workout where you pushed beyond your comfort zone, it’s totally normal to feel sore. But don’t mistake muscle soreness for joint pain or tightness. Fitness expert Brian Bott explains that when your joints are stiff to the point where you’re feeling uncomfortable, it might mean that you’re dehydrated or staying sedentary for too long. Consistent motion is vital because it helps to keep your joint surfaces lubricated. “The fluid in and around your joints, which helps nourish the joint, can only work when being moved through a given range of movement,” he explains. “Unless you are making an effort to get up and move your body in a variety of different ways, your joints aren’t getting the nutrients and care [that] they need.”
Your skin and hair are lackluster.
Our skin is like a mirror for our health. It’s one of our fastest cycling organs and reliably reflects our overall health, or, in this case, lack of health, says cardiovascular surgeon Dr. David Greuner. Your hair suffers a similar fate. If you notice that your locks and your pores appear drier, he says that you might need more omega-3 fatty acids. “The best way to get omega-3s through your diet is with oily fish, nuts, and leafy green vegetables,” he says. “These are rich in fatty acids and protein, both [of which are] crucial nutrients needed to help stimulate the production of healthy skin,” Greuner shares.
You’re tired all the time.
If your regular cup (or two) of coffee isn’t cutting it anymore, you may need to prioritize more sleep. Dr. Greuner says that both hypersomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness can be indicators of underlying health issues. So, if you regularly battle the Sandman or find yourself needing to take a daily power nap, you might need assistance to return to a healthier, sleep rhythm. Following a physical and thorough analysis of your medical history, your physician will order proper tests to make a definitive diagnosis, he says.
You can’t touch your toes.
There’s a reason that your elementary school P.E. class included the sit-and-reach test. As Bott explains, a study from 2009 correlated the connection between the ability to bend over with a lower risk of heart attack. Beyond that, Bott says using this throwback examination of your flexibility and how your muscles are working. “Being able to touch your toes is also a good indicator of the mobility of your hips and back,” he says. “Being able to move properly at the hip can help lower the risk of a lot of low back overuse injuries.”
You have bad breath.
As a common worry for first dates and job interviews, bad breath every-once-in-a-while can be a bummer. But, if you’ve got a consistent stench that you can’t get rid of, Dr. Greuner says that you might have reason to worry. A consistently stinky yawn may indicate you’re at risk for some diseases and illnesses. Everything from stress and gum disease to a stomach ulcer, diabetes, and liver disease can cause bad breath. Bottom line: If you can’t get that bad taste out of your mouth, make a pit stop by your doctor or dentist ASAP.