The older we get the more important it is that we have regular health checks.
Usually we visit the doctor only when we feel ill but it is also a really good idea to visit your GP for health checks periodically. And getting access to the healthcare we need is even more important as we age.
If you are aged 40 to 74 you may already be familiar with the NHS health check service. Typically your GP surgery or local council invite you by letter for this free service. Usually every five years if you don’t have certain pre-existing health conditions. You can also call your GP directly to discuss the services they offer or make an appointment. Some local pharmacies also offer this free service as well as private providers which you have to pay for.
What do they look for?
The NHS health check covers a variety of different checks. They include taking a look at your blood pressure, measuring your cholesterol levels (the fatty substance in our bodies which can be too high if we eat too much high fat food) and measuring your Body Mass Index (BMI) by using your height and current weight to work out if your weight is healthy.
You might also be asked about your physical activity levels, alcohol intake and other lifestyle factors such as whether you are a smoker or have a stressful job.
This simple series of tests can help to spot the early warnings risks of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes, kidney disease and even certain types of dementia. A health check can also play a vital role in giving you the advice you need if you are at risk of such conditions and ways to reduce your risk of suffering from them later.
Once your results have been obtained you can discuss them with your health professional. They will offer help and advice if your results suggest you might be at risk and together you will work out an action plan.
Improving your Health
In addition to regular health checks there are other things you can do at home to better understand and monitor your health. You can assess the age of your heart compared to how old you actually are and learn about the ways to bring your heart age down.
There is also the NHS ‘How Are You’ quiz which gives you a free, personal health score after answering a series of questions.
This simple online tool helps you to work out your BMI by entering your weight and height; it can be a useful early warning sign if you need to lose weight.
None of these tools are a substitute for visiting your health professional but they can give you a real idea on how you might improve your day to day health in between health checks. If you have concerns you should always talk to a health professional or the NHS 111 service.
Regular health checks give us all peace of mind. They can give important early warning signs. Allowing us to make changes to lower our risk of more serious problems later down the line.
Click here to find out where the NHS health check service is available in your area