Death is inevitable — and it could happen dozens of ways. There’s a lot we can do to try to extend our lives, like eating right and avoiding harmful substances. But it would be nice to know how much time you have left. Your body has a way of dropping subtle hints you may die soon. Here’s what to watch out for — and how to (maybe) grant yourself extra time. (You’d never think to “point a finger” at the freaky symptom on page 9.)
1. Struggling to lift bags of groceries
There’s a difference between trying to carry all your groceries to your door at the same time and struggling to carry a couple bags of produce. According to Prevention, the latter may be a sign of low muscle mass, which can indicate you have a weak core. It can also mean you have too much body fat in your abdomen. Stomach fat increases your risk of life-threatening issues, like heart disease and diabetes. See the connection?
Next: This makes a painful experience even worse.
2. Experiencing divorce or the death of a spouse
Men who stay in long-term marriages live until they’re at least 70 years old. Only one-third of divorced men live this long, according to the Longevity Project by the University of California Riverside. Evidently women’s health isn’t affected the same way, but it’s still something to keep in mind as you plan your long-term health goals.
Next: Most people complain of being tired — but are you tired all the time?
3. Chronic fatigue
Always feeling fatigued isn’t a good sign, especially if you don’t have other health conditions zapping your energy. It could be your metabolism — but it could also be something more dangerous. According to the Lancet, conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome increase your risk of dying sooner, especially as a result of suicide. If you’re constantly exhausted, seeing a doctor to discuss your symptoms could spare your life.
Next: People who notice this subtle change might be nearer to death than they think.
4. Changes in your appetite
Pay close attention to how much you’re eating. Research suggests people tend to eat less than usual when they’re approaching the end of their life. Eating less or more than you have for years without reasonable cause could also indicate you have an underlying condition affecting your overall health. It couldn’t hurt to check in with your doctor to make sure your change in appetite isn’t something serious.
Next: Are people always waiting for you to catch up?
5. Walking slower than usual
Do your friends walk faster than you? If you’re always the one lagging behind, this may indicate your heart, lungs, or musculoskeletal system aren’t in good shape, according to Prevention. If you can’t perform a brisk exercise, like walking rather quickly, you may experience an increased risk of disability and death. Walking at least 30 minutes a day can help increase your lifespan.
Next: This stealthy condition can be fatal — especially if you don’t know you have it.
6. Breathing problems
Sleep apnea — a condition that causes you to stop breathing while asleep — is difficult to detect. WebMD says that sleep apnea can increase your risk of sudden cardiac death, especially if it goes undiagnosed. Do you wake up tired all the time? Your health care provider can refer you to a specialist who can perform a sleep test to evaluate your breathing patterns. Treatment can help you extend your life.
Next: Have you broken any bones lately? Your time might be running out.
7. Broken bones
Beware of broken bones — especially if it seems like you’re always recovering from yet another fracture. This could be a sign your bones are dying, says MedlinePlus — and that isn’t good for your overall health. Weak bones make it hard to get around. Lack of physical activity, even if you can’t help it, can lead to weight gain, heart problems, chronic disease, and a higher chance of imminent death.
Next: This is a clearly visible sign your body is falling apart.
8. Inflammation and swelling
Are your joints, arms, and legs constantly swollen and/or inflamed? There are many reasons you might experience chronic inflammation, but the Annual Review of Pathology notes it could also mean you’re going to die soon. Cell death, and the associated inflammatory response, is a sign your body is quickly deteriorating. Speak with your doctor about any swelling throughout your body that doesn’t go away.
Next: “Give yourself a hand” and recognize this freaky symptom.
9. Gnarly nails
Your fingernails say a lot about how healthy you are (or aren’t). Abnormalities sometimes warn of serious, maybe even fatal disease. Dark streaks on your nails could be an early sign of skin cancer. Liver or heart disease often results in pale-looking nails. Take the health of your fingernails seriously, and voice any concerns with your doctor if they look out of the ordinary.
Next: A poor sense of smell is probably bad news.
10. A weak sense of smell
It isn’t just our hearing or our sight that starts failing us as we age. Our sense of smell can also dwindle — and that could mean death is only years away. One study found a possible association between a fading sense of smell and fast-approaching death. If you’re having a hard time detecting different smells, it might be a good idea to bring the issue up with your health care provider.
Next: This symptom is more than just a turnoff.
11. Bad breath
Bad breath could mean something more serious than needing a breath mint after a garlic-saturated entree. According to Mayo Clinic, it could also signal that you have an underlying, possibly fatal condition. Metabolic disorders, sinus infections, GERD, and even some forms of cancer have all been known to cause bad breath in some people.
Next: Is your poor grip strength an indication of something deeper?
12. Grip strength
Is your renowned firm handshake not what it used to be? You could just be getting older — or it could be something more imminently life-threatening. According to Harvard Health Publications, poor grip strength and mortality may share a link. Not being able to grip things as firmly as you used to could mean there’s something wrong with your heart. Testing your grip strength is a helpful way to warn doctors you might need further exams.
Next: The more time you spend sitting, the sooner you’re (probably) going to die.
13. You spend too much time sitting down
Do you spend most of your day sitting on the couch or in a chair? Don’t let this bad habit cut your life short. Your chances of dying climb the more time you spend sitting. If you’re watching TV, make it a point to walk laps around your living room during commercials. If you’re chatting with friends, do so while taking a walk. You can even stand while using your computer.
Next: Your heart rate could signal your body is in silent distress.
14. You have a high resting heart rate
It’s normal for your heartbeat to increase during physical activity. But if your heart continues to pump quickly, even while you’re at rest, this could be a sign death is near. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, a high resting heart rate of more than 90 beats per minute significantly increases your risk of dying. Check your pulse to see what your heart rate is as you read this.
Next: Your social life — or lack thereof — could predict how soon you’re going to die.
15. You don’t have many friends
If you have a small social circle, you’re more likely to die earlier than you would surrounded by friends and loved ones. Loneliness is a huge health risk for older adults. Spending time alone messes with your immune system, and makes you more susceptible to disease — while socializing has the opposite effect. Research warns it could even increase your chances of dying up to 14%.
Next: Do you have a master’s degree? You may die later rather than sooner.
16. Education level
The more educated you are, the higher your average typical income — and the longer you’ll likely live. The Population Reference Bureau says you’re much more likely to live into your 80s and beyond if you have a graduate degree, compared to only a high school education. Higher earnings often mean a better quality of life — you’re less stressed, you might eat better, and you’re less prone to chronic disease as a result.
Next: Your location might have a negative impact on your longevity.
17. Where you live
Your geographic location has a big influence on your health — and how long you might live if you stay there. USA Today says living in certain parts of the U.S. exposes you to specific health risks. Pollution levels could increase your risk for certain types of cancer, for example. Local cuisine and culinary norms might elevate your heart disease risk. Your environment and your expiration date go hand in hand.
Next: Your weight is a major risk factor for early death.
18. Your bodyweight
The older you get, the more your weight matters. Unfortunately, overweight and obesity can put you at risk for a long list of health problems. If you don’t start taking your physical health seriously, the consequences could be fatal — and a lot sooner than you think. It’s never too late to adopt a healthier, tastier, more active lifestyle — don’t listen to anyone who tries telling you otherwise!