8 Weird Health Tricks from Your Hands

The Editors of Prevention
From thwarting the flu to trimming your waistline, your hands may very well be the best health tool you're not using
From thwarting the flu to trimming your waistline, your hands may very well be the best health tool you're not using

By The Editors of Prevention

How your hands improve your health
Give your palm and fingers an, um, hand--they're a powerful ally for your health. Sure, they lace up the sneakers that power you through energizing walks, dice the veggies that provide essential nutrients, and dial the doctor when you're under the weather. But your hands are also an excellent health resource in less obvious ways. Here, simple strategies to hand yourself a health boost.

Stop restaurant binges
Portion distortion is the main reason we overload on calories when we dine out. To keep calories in check, use your palm to check portion sizes. Three ounces of meat or fish is about the size of your palm (though many restaurant entrées plate more than twice that amount). An ideal 1-ounce serving of dessert (say, a decadent triple-fudge brownie) is roughly the size of an average woman's thumb.

Keep your metabolism healthy
If your fingernails are ragged and breaking more than usual, it could be a symptom of hypo- or hyperthyroidism, conditions in which your body produces too few (hypo) or too much (hyper) hormones that regulate your metabolism. Other common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include an inability to concentrate, unexplained weight loss, and feeling warm and hungry all the time. Typical signs of hypothyroidism include fatigue, joint and muscle pain, weight gain, and feeling cold all the time. If you're concerned, call your doctor for a full thyroid checkup (simple blood tests and a visual exam, to start).

More from Prevention: 6 Symptoms To Never Ignore

Get fuller, thicker hair
For an easy way to thicken your hair, teach your hands to do more than brush, blow-dry, and straighten. Give your scalp a qigong self-massage; practitioners say it can stimulate hair follicle growth and thickness. Place your fingertips on your forehead at the hairline and exhale as you stroke through your hair to the back of your neck. Repeat 10 times a day. (Losing your hair? Here are 11 daily habits that make your hair thinner.)

Wave colds and flu good-bye
Your hands are the ultimate conduit for bugs that make you sick. Every time you push an elevator button, clutch a treadmill handle, or twist open a doorknob, your hands get populated by tons of germs. That's why washing your hands is the single best way to keep from getting sick, say experts. Scrub with soap and hot water for 20 seconds, and don't forget between your fingers and under nails. When you can't get to a sink, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, says Allison Aiello, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Be sure to check out these 6 more ways to avoid the flu to keep you healthy and safe all season long.

Look younger
Your hands are a dead giveaway to your true age. Even in your 30s and 40s, they can show the effects of sun damage and natural aging--dryness, scattered brown spots, thinning skin. Add to that the wear and tear of an active lifestyle (golfing, gardening, bicycling, etc) and your hands can look more worn-out than you feel at the end of the day.

To keep them looking as youthful as the rest of you, pamper your hands with the same TLC-and anti-aging strategies--you give your face. That means moisturizing regularly, applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen before going outside, and calling in the big guns, like retinoids and antioxidants, to repair sun damage. Plus, the power of a good manicure is unparalleled. Follow these 8 tips for the ultimate anti-aging manicure, here!

Prevent nausea

Get carsick easily? Use this easy acupressure technique before your next big road trip. A review of 40 studies found that stimulating a point on the inside of the wrist effectively reduces nausea from motion sickness, says Prevention advisor Andrew Weil, MD. To try it, press between the two tendons on the inside of your wrist, about three finger breadths below the base of your palm.

Avoid a heart attack
A simple heart test can assess the health of your ticker via your finger long before more obvious signs of heart trouble appear. Here's the backstory, from cardiologist and Prevention advisor Arthur Agatston, MD: Lining all your blood vessels--even those in your index finger--is a single layer of cells, called the endothelium, that produce chemicals that affect the vessels' function, causing dilation, constriction, clotting, etc. Negative changes in the endothelium occur years before any other measurable signs of heart trouble appear.

Now we have the test to check for endothelial health. The one Dr. Agatston uses is called VENDYS; it involves attaching a fingertip-temperature detector to your index finger and wrapping a blood pressure cuff around your arm. As the cuff is inflated, blood flow to the hand decreases and finger temperature drops. After 5 minutes, the cuff is deflated and blood flow returns. The faster and more completely finger temperature rebounds, the healthier the endothelium.

This test can also help your doctor understand how well treatment and lifestyle changes are working. "If a patient loses weight, lowers her blood pressure, or begins taking medication, I can detect positive changes in her endothelial function almost instantaneously," says Dr. Agatston. "With other methods--calcium scoring, for instance--I'd be waiting years."

If you're at risk of heart disease, discuss this and the other tests with your doctor, and start implementing these 30 Daily Tips For A Healthier Heart today.

Check for healthy circulation

Are your hands always freezing cold? Normally, this isn't a cause for concern, say experts. In fact, it can even be a sign of good health. People whose blood pressure is low but healthy often have concentrated blood flow in the torso, leaving their extremities chilly, indoors and out.

But if your icy hands (or feet) are accompanied by hair or memory loss, you may have hypothyroidism; numbness or tingling could signal a vitamin B12 deficiency, according to Steve Rosenbaum, MD, medical director of general internal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Clinic. A simple blood test can detect either, and both are treatable. If the frostiness is paired with pain, burning, or drastic whitening of fingers or toes, it could be an indication of peripheral vascular disease (spasm of the arteries), which is more serious; you should see your doctor ASAP. (The toes have it, when it comes to your health. Here are 10 things your feet can tell you.)