A full medical assessment can help identify health risks. While the merits of health checks are hotly debated in the press, everyone can agree that there is no harm in taking time to focus on your health risks and making changes now that could prevent future illness.
Importantly, a health check should not be a substitute for a visit to your GP. If you have a health concern, you should see your doctor. If you're struggling to find time to see your GP, try our Doctor@Hand service. You can have an online or phone consultation, usually within a few hours.
The NHS Health Check
The NHS offers you a free health check every 5 years if you’re aged between 40 and 74 and do not have a pre-existing condition.
The check includes a range of routine health tests and questions about your diet, exercise, and lifestyle. The results give your doctor a clearer picture of your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus and some forms of dementia. If identified early, these conditions can be treated more successfully or even prevented.
The NHS Health Check is carried out by a healthcare professional such as a practice nurse at your GP surgery. They will discuss the results with you and you will be given advice and support to help you address any areas of concern.
What the test involves:
You may have a higher risk of developing certain health conditions simply because of your age, ethnicity or lifestyle choices. You will therefore be asked personal questions that relate to these risks. You can expect to be asked about these main topics:
• Lifestyle choices (such as diet, alcohol consumption)
• Family history
• Physical activity
Cholesterol is a vital fat for the proper functioning of your body. There are two kinds of cholesterol. Too much of one kind in the blood can narrow the arteries, which can lead to vascular disease. A sample of blood will be taken from your arm or finger and tested for cholesterol.
• Blood pressure
This is the pressure that your blood exerts on the walls of your arteries as it moves through them. If your blood pressure is found to be high, you’ll be offered a blood test to check the function of your kidneys. You will also be referred for a follow up appointment with your GP to discuss the best way to managing this.
Raised blood pressure can be controlled by taking medicines.
• Body mass index (BMI)
BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop vascular and other diseases such as stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, some forms of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus occurs when the hormone insulin (which converts sugar into energy) is either not being produced, not being produced in sufficient quantities or the body isn’t able to use the insulin properly. This results in a build-up of sugar in the blood, which can result in a wide range of serious health problems. Left unmanaged, diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Private health assessment options
There are numerous options if you want a mid-life MOT with a private provider.
Some offer the same checks as the NHS and others offer more, from cardio-respiratory fitness tests to cardiac CT. There are also clinics that provide complementary screening, such as hair analysis to reveal vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or bio-resonance tests to measure energy levels. (Buyer beware -- Not all of these diagnostic tests have proven benefits.)
If you’re an AXA PPP healthcare member, you can enjoy a discount off health assessments with BMI and Nuffield. Please log in to your Online Servicing area for more information.
Additional screening for the over-40s
The following tests are not offered as part of the NHS Health Check, but are available to those who meet the age-criteria.
• Cervical screening
This is offered to women aged 25 to 64 to check the health of cells in the cervix. It is offered every three years between the ages of 26 and 49, and every five years between the ages of 50 and 64.
• Breast screening
This is offered to women aged 50 to 70 to detect early signs of breast cancer. Women aged 70 and over can self-refer.
• Bowel cancer screening
This is offered to men and women at the age of 55 in some parts of England. There are two types of screening for bowel cancer. A home testing kit is offered to men and women aged 60 to 74, or a bowel scope screening which uses a thin flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end to look at the large bowel.
• Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)
This is offered to men in their 65th year to detect abdominal aortic aneurysms (a dangerous swelling in the aorta). Men over 65 can self-refer.
Start your healthy lifestyle right now…
With or without one of these health assessments, you can kick start a healthier lifestyle right now. You don’t need an MOT to tell you that your car has a problem, so why wait for a test result before you address those areas of your life that you know are not so healthy?
If you know deep down that you need to stop lounging on the sofa, eat more fruit and veg, or drink less alcohol…you can start that today! We are here to support you. If you have any questions about your health ask our experts.
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• Heart centre
• Diabetes centre
• Bowel cancer symptoms
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