What is a NHS Health Check?
The NHS Check is like a MOT for people. Once every five years, it measures your circulatory and vascular health, looking for factors that could mean you are at higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and dementia. Whatever your risk, advice and information about ways to stay healthy will be offered.
The NHS has produced several videos to explain the benefits of having a NHS Health Check.
Why have a NHS Health Check?
To keep you fit and healthy for longer, helping you to get the most out of life and to prevent illness by looking for early warning signs.
Often there are no symptoms with high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Having these measured regularly, and making healthier lifestyle choices, will increase your chances of staying well for longer. If detected early, certain conditions can be reduced or even reversed through lifestyle changes.
The smallest change can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing in the long-term.
What happens at a NHS Health Check?
Appointments take about 20 to 30 minutes. The check might be carried out by your GP or by another health professional at the practice, such as your Practice Nurse or Healthcare Assistant. The person you see will take measurements and explain your risk factors giving suggestions about how to reduce any risks. During a NHS Health Check, they look at;
BMI and waist measurement
Your height and weight are measured to calculate your BMI. Your waist is also measured as a larger waist can be an indicator of a diabetes risk.
Blood pressure and pulse
It’s important that your GP has a record of your blood pressure over time, so that any gradual increases are detected. If your blood pressure is raised, your GP or Practice nurse will want to measure this again.
An irregular pulse can be a risk for stroke. If detected, your GP will arrange an ECG (electrocardiogram) to monitor your heart rhythm.
If your NHS Health Check takes place in the community (for example in a mobile clinic at a shopping centre) the team carries out an on-site blood test. This is a small ‘finger prick’ and the results are available in a few minutes.
If your NHS Health Check takes place at your GP practice, you will be sent a blood test form in advance, so that they can the results back in time for your NHS Health Check appointment.
The blood test measures your cholesterol. Although the body needs some cholesterol, certain types can be a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
They also will ask about family history of heart disease, how much alcohol you drink, how much physical activity you do and whether or not you smoke. If you are aged between 65 to 74 years they will talk to you about the signs and symptoms of dementia.
The information gathered during the check is used to calculate your risk of having a stroke or heart attack within the next 10 years. Although every adult has some level of risk, there is help available to keep your risk as low as possible. They will give you the information you need and offer support to help you with changes to your lifestyle. For example there is a Stop Smoking service and Health Trainers that can provide activity and dietary advice.
Who can have a NHS Health Check?
Anyone aged 40 to 74 years who doesn’t have a pre-existing condition (listed below) and who hasn’t had a NHS Health Check in the last five years is eligible for a NHS Health Check.
If you have one of the following conditions, you are already under the care of your GP and do not need a NHS Health Check:
- Heart-related conditions, arterial or vascular disease
- Stroke, or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack - often called ‘mini stroke’)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Kidney disease
You also don’t need to arrange a NHS Health Check if you’ve already been identified as having a high risk of cardiovascular disease and are receiving support or treatment.
If you’re unsure whether you qualify, contact your GP practice.
How do I arrange a NHS Health Check?
Every GP practice in Southend-on-Sea is inviting people to attend a NHS Health Check. This is a rolling programme, so you might not have received your invitation yet. If you prefer not to wait for an invitation, contact your practice and ask for a NHS Health Check appointment.
From April 2015, a community NHS Health Check service will be available. This is to help those that find it difficult to get to their GP, or who are not registered with a GP practice.
If you have recently moved to Southend-on-Sea and are still registered with a GP using your old address, you could miss your invitation. To be seen locally, register with a local GP. You can find your nearest practice on the NHS Choices website.
If you are a local employer and would like the community service to visit your workplace and provide NHS Health Checks on site, email email@example.com further information.
Apps and gadgets
The NHS has produced handy apps that have helped thousands of people to change their lifestyle. Find their ‘Couch to 5K’, ‘Quit Smoking’ and other apps on the NHS website.
Southend’s GP registered population is 184,927 (Feb 2015 Open Exeter). Within the population;
- nearly 3,000 people (1.6%) have atrial fibrillation (a heart condition that gives an irregular pulse and increases the risk of stroke)
- nearly 10,000 people (10.3%) aged 40 and over have not had their blood pressure measured in the past five years
- over 6,000 people (3.3%) have heart disease
- over 28,000 people (15.3%) are treated for high blood pressure
- over 3,000 (1.7%) have had a stroke or mini-stroke
- over 4,000 (3.0%) have chronic kidney disease
- nearly 9,000 people (5.9%) aged over 17 have diabetes
(Source: Quality and Outcomes Framework data 2013/14)
All of these conditions can be prevented to some degree (and often reduced, where they already exist) through an active lifestyle and a healthy diet. Your healthcare professional can offer advice and support about making small changes that are easy to maintain.
For information about NHS Health Checks:
Visit NHS Choices website information and videos on the NHS website.
If you have concerns about your health, please telephone your GP practice or NHS 111 or visit the NHS website.
If you are not registered with a local GP practice, please see the NHS website to search for local services.