Free NHS health checks for over-40s could reduce cardiovascular risks

Jack Woodfield
Wed, 31 Jul 2019
Free NHS health checks for over-40s could reduce cardiovascular risks
Those who attend nationwide the NHS Health Checks developed for the over-40s could experience a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers say.

The findings are pertinent for people with diabetes who tend to have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and reveal the health checks could lower health markers associated with heart problems.

The Health Check programme was introduced in 2009 in a bid to spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia among people aged between 40 and 74.

However, one study review suggested the screenings did not reduce death among attendees so a team from King's College London wanted to investigate further.

The more recent research involved following 127,891 people who had participated in a health check between 2010 and 2016.

The findings showed those who went to a health check were five times more likely to receive weight management advice, three times more likely to receive smoking cessation advice, and their use of statins was 24% higher.

At follow-up, six years later, those who had a heath check had reduced their BMI, had lower blood pressure and were more likely to have given up smoking. All three factors are major causes of cardiovascular disease that kill 150,000 people in the UK every year.

Lead author Samah Alageel said: "These results show that the NHS Health Check programme carries a potential for reducing cardiovascular risk through the early assessment and management of risk factors. However, the programme could benefit from and should be supported with population-wide interventions to improve its outcomes."

Professor Martin Gulliford, from the School of Population Health and Environmental Sciences, added: "People who take up a health check may be healthier than controls but are more likely to receive risk factor interventions. Reductions in risk up to six years following a health check may be of public health importance but we need to be sure these benefits are shared by those most at risk."

The findings have been published in the PLOS Medicine journal.
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