Published on: 12 October 2023.
Health screens can often be bypassed if there’s, visibly, nothing wrong with our bodies and we feel, generally, quite healthy. But they can be integral in safeguarding our long-term health. So, how, where and when should you get your next health screen? Vitality Magazine finds out.
Being healthy and happy is what most of us aspire towards. Along with enjoying life to the fullest and spending as much time as possible with the people we love.
And much like we wouldn’t ignore taking our car for its yearly MOT, it’s important we don’t avoid occasionally giving your body a once over to make sure it is running as it should.
“A health screening is a routine check-up of your general health,” says Dr Kiran Johal, a NHS Doctor. “The idea is to give an overall picture of your current health and wellbeing, as well as determining your risk of developing particular medical conditions,” she adds.
By taking part in a routine health screen, you are more likely to identify a health condition early, so you can be treated in the appropriate way.
For example, if type-2 diabetes goes undiagnosed, it could result in further health problems, such as heart and kidney disease. But a simple test could help stop an undetected type-2 diabetes diagnosis in its tracks and give you access to the right information and support needed to help manage the condition.
Now, that’s not to say that if you visit your GP or a third-party health professional that you are going to come away with a diagnosis. But it will help to identify if you are on the cusp of any potential health risks in the future, such as high cholesterol, which can be managed through diet.
“Knowing you have high blood pressure, for example, means you can start treatment and make diet and exercise modifications to reduce that risk,” notes Kiran.
For those at risk of type-2 diabetes, it might include a holistic approach to weight management that is achievable and sustainable over the long term.
Vitality understands it can be hard to manage your long-term health, particularly your weight.
That’s why we have partnered with Second Nature, a one-to-one coaching app, which provides you with the tools you need to manage your weight over time.
Complete your online Health Review and see if you are eligible to take part in a personalised 12-week programme, as well as access to the app for 12 months for just £20.
Terms and conditions apply. Find out more by visiting Member Zone.
What happens at a health screen?
A health screen can come in a few different forms. It could be a face-to-face consultation with a health professional or an at-home testing kit that can check a host of readings.
This could be in the form a blood test that checks your vitals, such as cholesterol levels, risk of a stroke and your heart, liver and kidney health, as well as dementia risks.
“These generally cover the above as a baseline, but can include further investigations, such as blood tests to check your bone health or ascertain your cardiovascular risk in more detail,” explains Kiran.
More in-depth tests could also involve a lung function check through a spirometry test or a stool antigen test, which detect certain types of cancers.
It’s worth nothing that these screens should be done alongside the NHS’s recommended tests, including cervical smear tests for women every three years between the ages of 25 and 64 years old (or annually if you are identified as being at risk), as well as mammograms, which check for breast cancer.
Meanwhile, everyone in England is invited for a bowel cancer screening – the fourth most common type of cancer – by the NHS when they are between the ages of 60 and 74. Those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can also get a test, but the ages vary slightly.
Kiran explains that there is nothing you need to do before a health screen. If a provider needs you to fast before a ‘once over’ then they will let you know of this in advance.
Bluecrest Wellness, a third-party health check provider and Vitality partner, for example, says it will provide a detailed preparation of guidelines ahead of your appointment.
More articles from Vitality Magazine:
- 4 questions about gynaecological cancer you shouldn’t be afraid to ask
- 5 super-convenient healthcare services you can use at home
- The truth behind why we make unhealthy choices
Vitality members who complete an online Health Review will receive 100 points per plan year towards improving their status.
You’ll also receive personalised recommendations on how to improve your health, such as expert support to stop smoking from Pelago (formerly Quit Genius) or tips on how improve your activity and earn Activity points.
When should I get a health screen?
The idea of a health screen can sometimes pass under the radar if there appears to be nothing wrong with our bodies. Not just that, people can be apprehensive about getting a health check, because they are nervous of, not just needles, but also the results.
Dr Kiran says that feeling apprehensive before a health screen is completely normal. “My advice would be to go ahead with the health screening,” she explains. “If the results are normal, you will feel an enormous sense of relief and if any abnormalities are picked up it is better to know sooner rather than later.”
Currently, the NHS offers 5-year health screens to people aged between 40 and 74 years old and assess health risks, such as heart and kidney disease, as well as your chances of a stroke.
“It involves asking questions about your medical history, measuring your height, weight and blood pressure, and taking some specific blood tests,” says Kiran.
Health screens by Bluecrest Wellness start from are suitable for anyone as young as 18 years’ old. “We firmly believe that preventative health is important at any adult age,” a Bluecrest spokesperson tells Vitality.
Prevention is better than cure
At Vitality, we believe that prevention is better than cure; and while not all illnesses can be averted, getting a health screen can increase your chances of catching a diagnosis early, meaning you get to spend more time with the people you love.
By being more proactive with your health and wellbeing, you could reduce or delay your need for care and support services in the future.
Or if you are interested in taking out a plan with Vitality, visit vitality.co.uk for more details.