We’re all going to die. You could be struck by a disease or by a speeding bus. Lifestyle choices, along with environmental factors, can lead to an early death. (Seriously, you won’t believe these terrible diseases you could have without knowing it.) But we can do many things to buy ourselves more time. And you can look for several signs to gauge whether the reaper is on your trail. If the following signs apply to you, death may come knocking sooner than you’d like.
1. Broken bones
If you’ve broken your arm, you don’t necessarily need to worry. But if you’re breaking bones consistently after a certain age (say, your mid-40s) that can be a red flag. Specifically, it can be a sign your bone health is decreasing and you’re getting physically weaker. This can cascade into other issues like arthritis and limited mobility, which can impact your overall state of health.
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2. Swelling and inflammation
Experiencing constant, consistent swelling and inflammation in your joints and extremities should be yet another red flag. There are, of course, many reasons that you may experience inflammation. But if it’s a chronic problem, it can mean your cells are dying and your body is actively deteriorating. If your joints, ligaments, and other body parts are swollen constantly, seek medical care.
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3. Where you live
Your geographic location can have a big impact on your health. If you live in certain parts of the country, for example, you may be more prone to certain cancers or cultural influences that may lead to heart disease. There are a lot of things that can impact life expectancy. Pollution from industrial activity, the length of your commute, or even the prevalence of natural disasters all have an effect on your expiration date.
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4. Appetite changes
Find yourself eating more or less than usual? That may be a sign you won’t live much longer. Typically, people will start eating less than they were before when death is near, says the Healthwise staff at University of Michigan. This can be a sign of changing metabolism and can play a role in other symptoms on this list, too, like fatigue. If you were dealing with other health problems, you may be unable to eat as much as before and may not be dying after all. Either way, an appetite change may be a signal worth paying attention to.
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5. A weak sense of smell
Our sense of smell is important for many reasons, but as we age, it can fade. We’ve all seen older people who have trouble seeing or hearing, and similarly, we can lose our sense of smell. The bad news: Studies tie the loss of smell to rapidly approaching death. In one study outlined in PLoS ONE, losing the ability to smell was found to be a biomarker in many genetic makeups that vitality was fading and death was imminent within five years. It might just be an association, but it’s still interesting.
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6. You have a small social circle
Oddly enough, lonely people tend to die at a younger age. Why? The short answer is because they have weaker immune systems. Being around people exposes us to more potential threats, boosting our immunity and building our white blood cell count. If you spend a lot of time alone, your system will be weaker as a result. In fact, UChicago News reports a new study suggests loneliness can increase your chance of death by 14%.
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7. Grip strength
Oddly enough, grip strength — you know, how hard you are able to grasp something — has been tied to mortality. Our grip strength can be an indicator of our heart health, among other things, which can tell doctors whether or not there are some serious underlying issues that are taking a toll on our bodies. Grip strength not what it used to be? That may mean there’s something lurking under the surface.
Next: It could be cause for concern if your fingernails look like this.
8. Gnarly nails
Our fingernails can tell us a whole lot about the state of our health. If your nails have spots, strange ridges, discoloration, or are seemingly falling apart, you probably have some serious issues to deal with. Take a look at your nails, and go to a doctor with anything that stands out as strange. Weirdness among our nails can indicate much more serious health issues that need to be addressed.
Next: If you constantly need mints, it could be more serious than what you had for dinner.
9. Bad breath
Bad breath can be a signal that you have some serious underlying health problems. Of course, it may just be the garlic and onion mashed potatoes you had for dinner — but chronic bad breath is a whole other can of worms. The Mayo Clinic adds bad breath may indicate someone has cancer or other infections that can, in fact, kill you.
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10. A high resting heart rate
Do you have a resting heart rate pumping at an unusually high level? Say, more than 80 beats per minute? That could be an indication that something’s wrong. A meta-analysis from the Canadian Medical Association Journal has tied a resting heart rate of more than 90 bpm to a significantly higher risk of death.
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11. Your physical shape
If you want to live well into your 60s, 70s, or beyond, you need to take your physical condition seriously. That means having a BMI within the recommended range — or, not being overweight or obese. Obesity can absolutely ravage your body, and many of the most common causes of death (including cancer and heart disease) are closely linked to excess poundage. Are you out of shape? Consider it a sign that you won’t last long into your golden years.
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12. Educational attainment
How much schooling you have can also give us an idea of how long you’re likely to live. There are a ton of factors baked into this, but research basically shows the longer you went to school, or the higher the degree you have, the longer you’re bound to live. That may mean you make more money and live a less stressful life, or you can afford more nutritious foods. Either way, the link exists.
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13. Chronic fatigue
Always tired? It may be an indication that your metabolism is in flux. It can also impact the amount of exercise you get and your appetite. There are a lot of reasons why people might be tired all the time, and it might even be a serious disorder like chronic fatigue syndrome. That alone can be fatal. And if you’re finding you’re always exhausted? You might want to see a doctor and determine if it’s a symptom of a greater problem.
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14. Pauses in breathing
If you’ve noticed changes in breathing patterns, it can be a sign that something is off. Specifically, if you or someone you know ceases to breathe for stretches at a time — either while awake or asleep — take it as a warning. This is common with people who suffer from sleep apnea, which can be fatal if not properly handled, says WebMD. Look for breathing pattern changes, and be wary of them.
Next: The one activity that is not-so-slowly killing you.
15. You spend a lot of time sitting
You’ve heard it before: Sitting is killing you. Take stock of how you spend your day. If you’re planted firmly on your butt for the entirety of the day, that can be a signal that you need to change things up. Do some exercises at your desk. Buy a standing desk. Figure out ways to incorporate more physical activity into your day. Sitting around all day isn’t going to kill you all on its own. But letting the years compound and the health issues mount up? That’ll do the trick.