The health checks that could save your life

Yes, we all lead busy lives, but carving out some time to have these health checks could be the best time you’ve spent all year.

NHS Health Check

While receiving a letter to invite you to a NHS Health Check may be a tad depressing - it means you’ve hit the big 4-0 - it can be a really beneficial check to have. Every five years, once you turn 40, you’ll be invited for a totally free health check. While it checks your overall health, it specifically looks at whether you’re at risk at getting diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Research shows that these checks do work, for example, for every 27 people having an NHS Health Check, one person is diagnosed with high blood pressure.

No-one knows this more than Elizabeth who had a health check, last year, aged 41.

“I got the letter when I was 40 but ignored it",” explains Elizabeth.

“Having a young family meant I just kept putting it off, however, I was feeling really tired, so decided to book a health check. They discovered that I actually had diabetes, which was something I never thought I could have. It doesn’t run in my family and I didn’t have any of the obvious symptoms, like being super thirsty.

“I’m so glad that I got the check, because now it means I can handle my condition. I feel like I have so much more energy and I’m able to play with my kids without feeling so exhausted!”


Breast check

This a check that you should be doing yourself every month. It’s recommended to have a good old feel of your boobs at the same time every month - preferably 3-5 days after your period, as pre-period your boobs can feel very different to normal.

You know what feels right for you and if you’re checking every month, you can soon notice a difference.

Lori, 36, from Devon, found a lump during her regular breast check.

“I like to check my boobs in the shower as it’s quick and easy,” she says.

“This one time, rather than an obvious lump, I found a thickening. It definitely felt different to what I’d felt there before, so I made an appointment with my GP.

“Unfortunately for me, it was cancerous but I’d caught it early enough to fight it off. I had one course of chemo, and I’ve been cancer-free for 5 years now. Obviously, I still regularly check my boobs and I’ll encourage my daughters to do the same when they’re old enough.”

If you’re unsure as to what to look for, Coppafeel has a great video, plus they do a text reminder service to ensure you’re copping a feel every single month.


The smear test

This is the one we all hate, but it really is an important test to have. It checks for abnormal cells that could develop into cancer and also for the HPV virus, which can lead to cervical cancer.

It’s quick and relatively pain-free, yet stats show that one in three women miss their test due to embarrassment. Other women don’t go because they feel healthy, while others didn’t believe the test helped reduce the risk of cancer.

Laura, aged 38, missed two smear tests in a row, due to the fact she thought she couldn’t have cervical cancer.

“I’ve had the same partner since I was 18, so I just didn’t think I was at risk for getting cervical cancer,” the mum of three said.

“Turns out I was wrong! The test showed that I had abnormal cells, which unfortunately did turn out to be cancerous. I ended up having surgery to remove my cervix, as well as some radiotherapy.

“Thank god I didn’t wait even longer as I’d hate to think what might have happened. I urge anyone to go and have a smear. Yes, they’re not the nicest thing in the world, but you can be sure that the nurse or GP performing the test, has seen it all! Plus, it’s over in an instant.”


The eye test

You probably only think of an eye test as an assessment of how bad your eyes have got and whether you finally need to succumb to reading glasses! These tests though can actually be real life-savers.

The eyes it seems are more than the windows to your soul, they’re windows to a whole lot of your body. Eye exams can reveal everything from diabetes to brain tumours, and it’s estimated that hundreds of lives could be saved each if more people just attended their routine appointments.

One lady who knows this only too well is Michelle.

As she had never needed glasses, Michelle hadn’t been for an eye examination since she was child but decided to go as she was struggling with reading.

“I was about 45 when I realised I was doing that thing - holding the menu, the paper, my book far away from my face so I could actually read the text,” she laughed.

“I knew it was probably time for reading glasses, so I booked an appointment with my local optician. I thought I’d leave with some rather chic glasses, but instead, I left with a diagnosis of high blood pressure!

“The test showed that a blood vessel had burst at the back of my eye - a classic sign of high blood pressure.

“I visited my GP who said my blood pressure was super high for a woman of my age, so as well as going on medicine, I’ve also made huge lifestyle changes such as losing weight and quitting my stressful job. I’m so glad I was having trouble reading as it definitely saved my life!”