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Why you should consider having a health MOT

Your fitness level, particular health worries and age will all help decide the best check-up for you

By Abi Jackson

There's a growing focus on preventative health right now - which basically means taking steps to prevent things becoming a problem, rather than waiting until disaster strikes before taking action.

Just as we send our cars for MoTs, it makes sense to consider booking yourself in for a thorough health check every once in a while. These are the main options:

NHS Health Checks

Most of us have had a general check-up when registering at a new GP surgery, but the NHS operates a more thorough Health Check programme too, offered every five years to people aged 40-74 who've not already been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

Its main purpose is to monitor individuals' risk levels for developing stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia.

"Anyone can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, by getting more active and reducing smoking, excess weight, cholesterol and high blood pressure. The NHS Health Check programme helps people over 40 do this and it is already estimated to have prevented around 2,500 heart attacks and strokes," says associate professor Jamie Waterall, national lead for the NHS Health Check programme.

The Health Check lasts around 20-30 minutes. A nurse or healthcare assistant will usually ask you some simple questions about your lifestyle and family history, measure your height and weight, and take your blood pressure and do a blood test.

Through healthcare companies

A wide range of private healthcare companies offer health check services, which may be available as part of a health insurance package (some employers provide this). The price of a one-off ranges upwards of £100, and sometimes considerably more for in-depth checks.

"We find that people who want to stay fit and healthy often choose a health assessment to help them stay on track.

"Others also like to have some reassurance or a diagnosis if they are worried," says Kevin Thomson, head of HealthFirst at BMI Healthcare (bmihealthcare.co.uk), whose checks include the BMI Essential (£177).

"For example, a fit runner may like to have a cardio assessment to give them an indication of their heart health, while another person whose parents have developed type 2 diabetes may wish to check their own likelihood of developing the condition."

Nuffield Health (nuffieldhealth.com), one of the UK's leading not-for-profit healthcare organisations, is also known for its health assessment services, starting from £259.

Justin Jones, professional head of physiology at Nuffield Health, says: "Our health assessments are available to anyone over 18.

"We use a multidisciplinary team of doctors and health and wellbeing physiologists and offer four unique assessments: Lifestyle, Female, 360 (and) our most comprehensive 360+."

On the high street

While you can't walk into a pharmacy (yet) and get a thorough top-to-toe MoT, you may be able to access a range of checks that address specific key areas - such as blood pressure and diabetes.

Some local pharmacies will do these things for free (pop in and ask), while Boots pharmacies offer a range of consultations and health check services too - some are free and others have to be paid for.

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