Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you’re turning (or have turned) 40, you are now considered to be at greater risk of a multitude of different illnesses. Heart disease and type 2 diabetes are the two most common diseases to hit the over 40s and, ironically, it’s people who rarely visit their doctor that present the greatest concern since these diseases can strike at any time, and without warning.
Free health check
As a result, the Government has decided that prevention is better than cure and, if you are over 40 you can take advantage of a free NHS health check every five years. The health check is your chance to get your free midlife MOT, and is there for people without a pre-existing condition. Your GP will give you a cardiovascular risk score based on your blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, age, gender and other factors. Those at increased risk may be advised on their lifestyle, including diet and exercise and drinking habits, or may be prescribed drugs such as statins to lower their cholesterol levels.
Lack of uptake
Interestingly a recent study by the School of Public Health at Imperial College London has revealed that the free health check is not proving to be as effective as it should be. Only 21% of eligible people have attended their check-up, and only 40% of people considered to be at risk of cardiovascular disease were prescribed statins. Studies suggest that over 80% of people that show signs of high blood pressure would benefit from being prescribed statins, so do question your doctor if you think you would benefit from this medication.
How to claim your health check
If you’re not currently being treated for a medical condition (in which case you will likely have received the basic health checks), you should receive an invitation from your GP or health visitor to attend your local surgery. If you’ve not heard anything, it may be worth calling your GP to enquire. Once you've had your check, your healthcare professional will discuss the results with you. You'll be given advice and support to help you lower any health risks, and maintain or improve your vascular health if required.
Michael Ward, Managing Director at PayingTooMuch.com said “It’s frightening how often families are impacted by these so-called ‘silent killer’ diseases. We urge all of our customers who are over 40 to ensure they book in for their free health check, and to do so every five years. We also think it’s important for people over the age of 40 to consider life insurance and critical illness cover, if they have not already. It tends to be the people who rarely visit their doctor who feel they don’t need this type of cover, and yet evidence suggests that they are just as likely to need it.”