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Five health checks that could save your loved one’s life

1 May 2018

Five health checks that could save your loved one’s life

Across the UK, we have on average 2.71 doctors available for every 1,000 people, which ranks us 24th out of the 27 EU member states. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that waiting times to see the GP can be long. With these pressures to our NHS, it can be tempting not to bother seeing the doctor at all. However, there are some health checks which should not be missed. Here are five of the most crucial health checks, and what they involve.

  1. The NHS health check

This health check evaluates the patient’s overall health, including heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and stroke. They will also receive advice about dementia, and how to lower their risk.

The whole check takes around 20 – 30 minutes, and involves little more than chatting about lifestyles, taking measurements and doing a blood test. Everyone over 65 will be invited for this once every five years and should prioritise attendance as it’s useful as an early warning system.

  1. Blood pressure checks

All blood is pumped around the body under pressure, but when that pressure becomes too much, it can weaken the heart and damage the arteries. This can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney problems. Around one in three of us live with high blood pressure but don’t’ realise it, as often there are no major symptoms.

The check is quick and easy, involving nothing more than a blood pressure cuff being placed around the arm and inflated. It takes around one minute and doesn’t hurt. There’s no set time to have this check as it is usually performed when attending other appointments, but if your loved one hasn’t had one for some time, you can ask the practice nurse to book them in for one.

  1. Breast cancer screening

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, accounting for around a sixth of all cancer cases. One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives, and the sooner it is diagnosed, the greater the likelihood of successful treatment.

The screening process is simple, it uses an x-ray machine called a mammogram to take a picture of each breast. It takes only a few seconds and is painless. Women will be invited to breast screening sometime after their 50th birthday, and then every three years until they are 70. Although the automatic invitations cease at age 70, women can still request a screening every three years via their GP.

  1. Eye tests

Eye tests are not just about which glasses you need. An optometrist can use the eye screening equipment to check for a number of serious conditions too, including diabetes and glaucoma. They can also spot autoimmune disorders, high cholesterol and tumours.

Eye tests are nothing to be concerned about. The optometrist will look into the patient’s eye with a light, will ask them to read letters from a chart and may puff a small amount of air at the eye to calculate the pressure inside. Everyone over 60 is entitled to a free eye test, so there really is no reason not to have this important health check.

  1. Bowel cancer screening

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with more than 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year. A bowel cancer screening can detect potential problems even before any symptoms start to show, giving the patient a much higher chance of survival.

The test is carried out at home using a kit sent through the post. Participants collect stools samples over several days, and then send the samples to the lab for analysis. Men and women aged between 60 and 74 are offered screening every two years, and those over 75 can be screened upon request.

These health checks can give us valuable early warning signs of any problems that may be lurking. Even if your loved one seems in excellent health, encouraging them to take up these offers of tests can ensure that good health continues for many years to come.

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