Column: Keep on top of vital medical check-ups

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Doctors like me are very good at giving health guidance to our patients but sometimes we need a prod to make sure we also apply that advice ourselves, as I recently found out.

My own GP practice had sent me text message reminders, asking me to come to the surgery for a routine blood pressure check and I’d been putting it to the back of my mind as busy work and family life always came first.

I’d been a bit complacent as I’m 46 years old and since school days I’ve kept myself in good shape, plus my years as an army medical officer, where being fit is part of the job. I’m not overweight, I don’t smoke, I think I have a balanced diet and I run and cycle regularly.

So imagine my surprise when I finally had a health ‘MOT’ and found I’ve high cholesterol and borderline raised blood pressure.

It’s taught me a couple of lessons: appearances can sometimes be deceptive, and, crucially, don’t put off invites for any type of free NHS screening service. Looking after your health is paramount, so being able to understand it and take ownership of it is key to living a happy and healthy life.

In Doncaster we’re lucky in having a free NHS Health Check service for residents aged 40 to 74, which you can access at any GP surgery in the borough and some community venues.

If you’re in this age range it’s important to consider having a check. The good news is that most conditions can be prevented or treated early – even if you have a family history like me.

Having an NHS Health Check will make you better prepared for the future and help you take steps to maintain or improve your health. It’s recommended every five years, contact your surgery if you haven’t had one.

It assesses your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and stroke and takes about 20 minutes. You’ll be asked some simple questions, such as about your family history and any medication you’re currently taking.

Your height, weight, age, sex and ethnicity will also be recorded, along with your blood pressure and a simple blood test to check your cholesterol level.

The person who carries out the check will then discuss your results with you and, if necessary, will give you personalised advice on how to lower your risk and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Luckily I don’t need any treatment but I am going to continue exercising, relook at my diet and have my blood pressure checked regularly.

If you are outside the 40 to 74 years age range and concerned about your health, contact your GP.

* On March 22, 9am to 3.30pm, the Health Check team will be at Conisbrough’s Ivanhoe Centre. Visit Hallcross Medical Services Ltd