What These 6 Weird Things Say About Your Health

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Beauty may only be skin deep, but how we look and feel on the outside can say a lot about what’s happening on the inside. When something is amiss, our bodies find ways to tell us, sometimes sending some surprising signals (think of them as a friendly little nudge) to let us know what’s up. Paying attention to these signs and learning to stay in tune with your body can offer some surprising insight into your health — if you’re listening, that is. Here, what six weird things say about your health.

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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Skin Wrinkles
While fine lines are often an unfortunate byproduct of growing older, did you know that wrinkles in uncommon places could mean you need to keep your blood pressure in check?

“The appearance of our skin is, in many ways, an external representation of our internal health. Studies suggest that high blood pressure is associated with premature aging and wrinkling of the skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

A study in the Journals of Gerontology looked at the upper inner arm skin — an area least likely to show signs of aging from the sun — of 260 women. What they found: Women with lower blood pressure and heart disease risk had fewer wrinkles and looked more youthful than those with higher blood pressure and a greater heart disease risk. Keep your heart and skin young by filling up on fruits and vegetables — both are packed with anti-aging antioxidants and sodium-regulating potassium to lower blood pressure and prevent premature skin aging.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Red Hands
Caught red handed? Itchy, peeling, pink palms may be the sign of eczema (a.k.a. atopic dermatitis), a chronic inflammatory skin condition most often caused by genetics or environment.

“Allergies to nickel in costume jewelry are a common culprit, or even the gold in your ring,” says Zeichner. "Avoid wearing your jewelry for a week or so to see if it get’s better — if not, see a dermatologist and they can prescribe a topical anti-inflammatory cream.”

Another strange reason for red palms: You’re pregnant. “Blood vessels dilate during pregnancy, allowing blood to rush to the palms,” adds Zeichner.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Bad Breath
Blame your Paleo diet. “High-protein, low-carb diets put your body in starvation mode, where you don’t have enough carbohydrates to use as energy, so your body produces something called ketones to help you metabolize fat instead,” says Kimberly Harms, DDS and A.D.A. spokesperson. “It’s one of the reasons these diets work, but a byproduct of fat-metabolizing ketones is funny-smelling breath.”

In addition to brushing and flossing more often, sip water and chew gum to promote saliva production. “Saliva acts as a disinfectant, flushing odor-causing bacteria from the mouth,” says Harms.

In rare cases, the condition can also be the result of uncontrolled diabetes (known as diabetic ketoacidosis) and can be life-threatening, so see your doc ASAP if you are diabetic or suspect you may be. And remember: Not all carbs are evil! Diabetics, health devotees — and really everyone — should incorporate more healthy complex carbs into their diet, like whole grains, legumes, beans, fresh fruits, and veggies.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Facial Hair
Hair on your face — particularly in conjunction with breakouts — could be an indication of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS),a condition where women have an imbalance of female sex hormones. “In PCOS, the ovaries make higher level of testosterone than normal, causing hair to grow in strange places,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine. “The hair is most often found on the upper lip and chin and is thicker than the baby-fine hair you normally see on the face.”

The cause of PCOS is still unclear. Heavier women have a greater risk for PCOS, but it can occur in thin women, too. You’re also more likely to have it if your mother or sibling has PCOS, so experts believe genetics play a role. Undiagnosed, the condition can delay menstruation and may interfere with fertility. “If you suspect you have symptoms of PCOS — such as facial hair, acne, and irregular periods — visit your Ob/Gyn for an evaluation,” says Minkin. It can usually be managed with birth control pills to regulate hormones and ovulation—which can help stop the hair growth.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Long Ring Fingers
Women with ring fingers that are longer than their index fingers have a greater risk for osteoarthritis (OA) — especially in the knee, according to a study from the University of Nottingham. Researchers say more study is needed to understand the mechanism behind the connection. Regardless of your digits, maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly (30 minutes, 5 days a week) to lower your risk for OA.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Foot Cramps
They can happen while you’re blissfully sleeping in bed, slipping into a pair of sandals, or pointing your toes in Pilates class: sudden muscle seizures in your feet that leave you writhing in pain.

Deficiencies in vitamins D, B6, and E are a common cause for cramping, says Barry Rosenblum, DPM, associate chief of podiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “Vitamin D is important to absorb calcium and magnesium to allow for proper functioning of nerves and muscle fibers,” he says. “Vitamin B6 is essential for nervous system function, while vitamin E is needed for the production of red blood cells and it increases the red blood cell’s ability to carry oxygen to the muscles.”

To keep foot cramps at bay, Rosenblum suggests stretching each night before bed and eat a diet rich in these vitamins, such as leafy greens, salmon, and almonds.