In every man's life there is one conversation that never ends: the one between you, your body, and the world around you. After all, your body's number-one job is to provide you with updates about your environment. Am I hot? Cold? Wet?
Amid this barrage of immediate information lies a stream of hints about your health as well. You just have to learn how to spot them—and translate them. Use the list below to find out what the mirror might be trying to tell you.
What you see: You have short legs and a longer upper body.
What it might mean: For the athletes among us, these proportions translate into a lower center of gravity and a greater ability to change direction quickly. Think Allen Iverson, John Stockton, and a world full of soccer stars. Still, according to a 15-year British study, this body type also means an increased possibility of heart disease.
"There's a directly proportional risk between leg length and heart disease," said Dr. George Davey Smith, a physician at the University of Bristol in England and one of the study's authors. "We followed 2,512 Welshmen over 15 years and found that for every half inch shorter your legs are in proportion to those of other men with the same length upper bodies, you have a 10 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease."
Related: Diagnose Any Running Injury
What you see: Your waist is bigger than your hips.
What it might mean: For men, this is the double whammy.
Whammy #1: "We're not sure precisely why, but men who are 'apple-shaped' instead of 'pear-shaped' have a higher incidence of heart disease," said Dr. Richard Stein, a professor of clinical medicine at Cornell University. Which means too many guys are eating the apples without leaving off the pie, strudel, and fritter part.
Whammy #2: A round, Santa-type belly is also a primary indicator of type-2 diabetes. "Abdominal fat causes a man's naturally produced insulin to work less efficiently," said Dr. Christopher D. Saudek, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University and president of the American Diabetes Association.
What you see: You have a deep, vertical crease down the middle of your earlobe.
What it might mean: Consider your heart health. Some studies have shown that people who have creases in their earlobes have a high incidence of heart disease. Doctors don't know why, and some don't subscribe to the idea at all, but it's worth looking into.
What you see: There's a whitish-colored ring along the outer edge of your cornea.
What it might mean: Your blood's a fat river, baby. "That's arcus senilis," said Dr. Monica L. Monica, an ophthalmologist in New Orleans. "For men in their 30s or 40s, it's a sign that you likely have high cholesterol: That white line is cholesterol lodging in the fine tissues of your corneas. As we age, we all get this a little bit--but younger men who see it should have their cholesterol tested."
What you see: Your eyes are bloodshot.
What it might mean: It may mean you're taking too much aspirin. "Aspirin slows clotting and thins your blood, and that ends up flooding the small vessels in your eyes," Monica said.
What you see: There are very small hemorrhages—which look like wood splinters—under your fingernails.
What it might mean: You may have endocarditis, an infection in one of the valves in your heart, said Dr. Edmund Chitwood, an emergency-department physician at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Splinter hemorrhages are blood clots that have been thrown off by the infection and then have lodged in the small blood vessels. Sorry, getting a manicure won't help.
What you see: In flat, white light, your skin and eyes have developed a yellowish tint.
What it might mean: You're lucky: You may have picked up on the only obvious symptom of hepatitis, liver disease, or jaundice. "The liver is a noncomplaining organ," said Thelma King Thiel, of Hepatitis Foundation International. "So most people don't know they have a problem until the damage is advanced—then it's nearly too late." Too late for what? To use an organ that does complain: your mouth. See your doctor immediately.
What you see: You have a large or colorful mole. (And we don't mean a flamboyant double agent.)
What it might mean: Melanoma—the most common skin cancer men get. Examine your hide for moles once a month, said Dr. Stephen Webster, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota's school of medicine.
Apply the A-B-C-D rule: Look for asymmetry—anything that's not perfectly round; the border—i.e., an irregularly shaped one; the mole's color—whether its hue changes across the mole; and its diameter—you're looking for anything larger than a pencil eraser. If you find cause for concern under any of these letters, look in the phone book under "D" for dermatologist.
What you see: Your scrotum is "fuller" and "heavier" on one side than the other.
What it might mean: Most likely, you have a varicocele. "This is nothing more than a varicose vein around your testicle," said Dr. Larry Lipschultz, chief of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Baylor college of medicine in Houston.
Symptoms include loss of testicular size, some testicular discomfort, lowered testosterone levels, and, in many cases, poor sperm production. An outpatient surgery can put you back on track.
What you see: You have a wide, round head, like a partially deflated soccer ball.
What it might mean: You may have a higher risk of sleep apnea. "People with wide, short heads have shorter airways, which are easier to obstruct," said Mark Hans, chairman of the department of orthodontics at Case Western Reserve University's school of dentistry.
And that puts you—and 10 million other men—at risk of sleep apnea, which can cut your energy, torch your memory, and make you impotent. Your doctor can help you with a diagnosis and refer you to a sleep specialist. Leave your noggin the way it is, though. No one likes a guy with an inflated head.