Wrapped up in snug layers, we don’t see a lot of our bare bodies during the winter months.
But it’s a good idea to hike up the heating, bare your body and give it the once-over to check for any changes you may otherwise miss in the colder months.
“Most moles are benign, but occasionally they can turn into skin cancer melanoma,” says Dr Adam Friedmann, a consultant for Stratum Dermatology Clinics.
“Stand in front of the mirror to thoroughly search your skin for any mole that stands out differently from others,” says Dr Friedmann.
Look for changes in size to an existing mole, irregular or blurry borders, changes in colour, especially black or blue colours, multiple colours or pale areas and any crustiness, itching or bleeding.
Examine areas you never normally clock – such as your calves and back. If you have any concerns, see your GP or book a mole check at a dermatology clinic.
Watch your waist
Carrying too much fat around your middle means it may be building around your internal organs too, which can put you at greater risk of conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
With your top off, breathe out and use a tape to measure your waist (between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your hip bone).
Doctors say a measurement of 94cm (37 inches) or more for most men and 80cm (31.5 inches) or more for women is a warning sign you should lose weight.
Study your stance
Poor posture can cause spine misalignment and muscle tension all over the body, leading to pain. Good posture allows your body to absorb stresses and move more freely.
“Check yourself sideways in a mirror,” says physiotherapist Rosalind Ferry, author of The Posture Pain Fix.
“Is your chin poking forwards? Do your shoulders roll forwards? Does your upper chest cave in and your mid upper back round?
“Does your lower back have an excessive arch or look too flat?”
All are signs of a misaligned posture.
So practise this way of standing: “Imagine a string on the top of your head gently lifting it up towards the ceiling,” says Rosalind.
“At the same time, another string runs from below the shoulders down through your lower back, legs and feet, into the ground.”
Eyeball bra marks
Badly fitting bras can cause neck, breast and shoulder pain.
While it’s normal to leave an imprint on your skin after all-day wear, any deep red marks are a flag your bra’s not a good fit.
The underband should provide roughly 80 per cent of the support,” says Alexandra Pluthero from bra company Wear My Freedom ( wearmyfreedom.com ).
“Red marks on your shoulders mean the straps are doing too much work and your underband is too loose. Try going a band-size down.
“If the band is leaving deep red marks, it’s probably too tight so try the next band size up. Sister sizing is important too – if your cup fits you well, and you increase the band size by one then you need to decrease the cup size by one to keep the same cup fit.”
Bare all in bed
It’s tempting to snuggle up in cosy pyjamas –and even keep on undies – in bed on a nippy night.
But stripping off and sleeping in your birthday suit gives your ‘nether regions’ an airing.
Warm and sweaty nether regions can mean growth in yeast and bacteria that could lead to infections like thrush.
Examine your boobs (or testicles)
Checking your breasts and being aware of any changes is key to early detection of breast cancer says Julia Ross, Head of Cancer Care, Bupa UK.
“Some warning signs include a lump or thickening in the armpit and any change in the look or texture of your skin – it may be red, puckered or look dimpled like an orange skin,” she says.
“Check for redness, rash or crusting around the nipple, or discharge – or a change in shape or direction of the nipple. Also look for changes to the size and shape of your breast – particularly when you move your arms.”
“From puberty, men should check testicles regularly. The best time is in the shower or bath. The warmth will relax the scrotum and make it easier to feel anything unusual.
“Roll each testicle between fingers and thumb – they should feel smooth, without lumps or swellings. Towards the top, at the back of each testicle, you’ll feel a soft, tender tube. This is the epididymis, and stores sperm, so don’t mistake it for a lump.”
Check your circulation
Fatty deposits in your arteries can restrict blood supply to your legs, which can cause pain when walking. Try the Buerger’s test to test circulation. Lie on your bed and raise your legs to a 45 degree angle, holding the position for one or two minutes. If circulation is normal, the soles of your feet should stay pink, rather than become pale.
Next, bring your legs down and over the edge of your bed. If colour doesn’t return quickly to your feet – or if they turn a red colour, it could be a sign of peripheral artery disease (narrowed, furred up arteries).
- See your GP and look at lifestyle measures such as stopping smoking, exercising more and eating a healthy diet to ease symptoms.