Are you ill because of your body?

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THE SHAPE and size of your body and all its moving parts can say more about your overall wellbeing than any diet or exercise regime.

For some people that are constantly on a diet or health fad, the idea of being so much slimmer, or even skinny, immediately equates to happiness. But, according to new research in the British Journal of Psychiatry, being thin could actually make you more prone to depression, while being moderately overweight significantly decreased the risk of the blues.

Here’s how to look at your own vital statistics for a do-it-yourself health check.

HEAD:- According to German researchers, having a big head may offer better protection against the effects of dementia.

A larger head was linked to better performance in tests, even in patients with the same Alzheimer’s-related brain cell loss. For every 1% of brain cell death, an additional centimetre of head size was linked to a 6% greater score in memory tests.

NOSE:- The bigger your snout, the better it is at filtering out dust and airborne bacteria. University of Iowa scientists found larger noses – one of the main entry points for harmful bugs into the body – inhale 7% fewer pollutants. Bigger noses reduce ‘aspiration efficiency’ – so it’s actually harder to breathe efficiently – but offer better protection to the mouth.

EARS:-Elephants might use theirs to cool themselves down, but larger ears have benefits for humans too.

They can actually counteract hearing loss as we age, according to the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, by helping us collect sound more efficiently. And since our cartilage keeps growing as we age – explaining ‘old man’s ear’ syndrome – it could be evolution’s way of keeping us going as we head into our advanced years.

FINGERS:- A range of disorders have been linked to the ratio between index and ring fingers.

It’s thought a long ring finger is a sign that the foetus was exposed to higher levels of the male hormone testosterone, while a long index finger is a marker of the female hormone, oestrogen. Conditions associated with a longer ring finger compared to the index include autism and ADHD. Those associated with a longer index include depression. Men, who are more likely to develop autism and ADHD, tend to have a longer ring finger relative to their index finger.

FEET:- It might be the fabled get-out clause for conscription into the army, but flat feet actually have health benefits.

A study published in the Archives of Family Medicine showed recruits with the flattest feet suffered the fewest injuries. The 20% with the highest arches had a six-fold greater injury risk than those with flat feet.

According to Bristol University researchers, women with size six feet or larger in childhood have been linked with greater calorie intake which in turn has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

HIPS / STOMACH:- The Institute of Preventative Medicine in Copenhagen reports that women with a ‘pear-shaped’ figure – a narrow upper body, including the bust and waist, but a wider lower body – actually live up to five years longer. That’s because hip fat contains a natural anti-inflammatory called adiponectin which prevents arteries swelling up and becoming blocked.

Fat cells around your tummy – as seen in ‘apple’ shaped women – can damage the body’s insulin systems, putting you at greater risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

In fact, keeping that waistline in check can reduce by 25% the risk of developing these conditions, as well as slashing your risk of cancer.

But it’s not all bad news for the apples – overweight ‘pears’ have a greater risk of reduced memory and brain function as they age, Chicago researchers revealed.

BOTTOM:- A big bottom is good for you – or at least better than having a big tummy.

Studies show that having a generous rear end rather than a pot belly, cuts levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and raises levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol that protects against hardening of the arteries. It also cuts the risk of diabetes, according to a review of studies by Oxford University.

One theory is that fat in the bottom ‘mops up’ trans fatty acids – chemically altered vegetable oils found in some processed foods – that could have harmful effects if deposited around organs such as the liver.

Bottom fat may also release higher levels of beneficial hormones known to regulate appetite and weight. Finally, it breaks down more slowly than belly fat, which means it produces fewer chemicals linked to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

TALL:-According to two American studies, women over 5ft 9in may be more likely to develop – and die – from breast cancer. One explanation for this is that hormones affecting height may cause an increase in the amount of milk duct tissue. The more ducts, the greater the cancer risk.

And according to a 12-year US study, men over 6ft have a 59% increased risk of prostate cancer compared to men under 5ft 7in. One theory is that taller men have higher levels of insulin-like growth factor IGF-1.

Men over 6ft 1in and women over 5ft 6in, also have an 81% increased risk of pancreatic cancer. An additional inch increased the risk by between 6 and 10%, said researchers at the US National Cancer Institute. It suggests the same hormones that make people grow may also increase abnormal cell growth.

SHORT:- Apparently, short men (under 5ft 7in) are much more likely to suffer heart attacks than men over 6ft 1in.

A Harvard University report found taller men were 35% less likely to suffer a heart attack. Every inch of additional height also reduced the risk by 2 to 3%.

Another American study found that short men had a 60% greater risk of a heart attack than men 6ft 1in or taller. One theory is that shorter people might have correspondingly smaller arteries that are more vulnerable to the blocking effects from fatty deposits that can trigger heart attacks.

Shorter people are more likely to develop stomach cancer possibly because the cancer is linked to infection with Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria also associated with stomach ulcers. It’s thought that having the bacteria in childhood might lead to a slowing of growth, say researchers at Bristol University.

Shorter height and leg length are associated with higher blood pressure in both men and women.

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