Posted on 24 May 2024

​ Open to people aged 40 and above without pre-existing condition, the NHS Health Check is your own personal MOT – an assessment of your overall health, and a snapshot into if you’re at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and stroke as you get older – and is completely free.

The test takes into account a myriad of physiological measures and can be conducted by a GP, Pharmacist, Nurse or even Healthcare Assistant. The assessments usually take up to half an hour and include measuring your height and weight, measuring your waist, a blood pressure test, a cholesterol test, and possibly a blood sugar level test. Other questions to round out the survey will ask you about your lifestyle, and include:

  • if you smoke, and how much

  • if you drink alcohol, and how much

  • how much physical activity you do

  • your age, gender and ethnicity.

As you can go for this check every 5 years, any healthcare decisions will not be based on just your acute presentation, but also on a bulletproof assessment of your lifestyle and food behaviours in the longer term.

New ground-breaking research – which also used health data recorded in an acute setting – has shown these NHS checks are also reasonably predictive of your risk of these diseases or events over the next 10 years.

Scientists from Oxford University recently discovered that even basic health information gathered from a health MOT is enough to give a reasonable estimate of your risk of developing a range of diseases over a 10-year timespan, with an accuracy of at least 70 per cent. This new study, published in BMJ Evidence-based Medicine, reported that it is accurate to an astonishing degree and can predict future outcomes of disease. The accuracy of risk scores produced from this basic health check was 82 per cent for dementia, 79 per cent for heart attacks, 73 per cent for stroke and 77 per cent for chronic kidney diseases and other metabolic diseases of lifestyle.

An accuracy rate of 86 per cent for alcoholic liver disease, caused by chronic exposure to alcohol, 76 per cent for liver cirrhosis and 75 per cent for liver failure were achieved, giving a very accurate number to the health effects of consuming even modest amounts of alcohol. Twinned with the recent reporting in The Guardian that alcoholism costs society more than obesity and smoking combined (when taking into account crime rates, drink driving, disease burden, addiction and lost productivity), patients have access to actionable information about their health going into the future.

A recent study from the UK Biobank showed these early warning systems in stark relief. Lead author Celeste McCracken said, "Our findings suggest that primary care providers could use a single set of easily collected information to generate multiple disease risk scores simultaneously. This could significantly streamline the process, potentially improving early disease detection and prevention efforts”. She then went on to say, “Risk estimates could be made using information already routinely gathered. We understand the NHS is resource-constrained, and this could have huge implications for people in hard-to-reach places”.

Your GP or local council will send you an invite as soon as you hit eligibility – so keep an eye on your letterbox, and take this small step to help you enjoy life for longer.

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