Is it time for a health MOT?
Do you have a car – or a boiler in your home? If you’d used them regularly for years without getting them serviced, you wouldn’t be at all surprised if they broke down. Exactly the same applies to the astonishingly well-oiled machine that is the human body.
When you’re young and carefree, most people take their health for granted and rarely get more than a sniffle or the odd ache. As you get older, conditions like osteoarthritis, causing pains in knees, hips and hands, get more common. But so does heart disease – and most people don’t know they have a problem until they have a potentially fatal heart attack.
That’s why regular health MOTs are so vital. They can pick up risk factors (like high blood pressure and raised cholesterol) and make sure you get them treated, to reduce the risk of you becoming a heart disease statistic. It’s been astonishingly effective – we have more than halved the number of death rates across the UK from heart attack and stroke in just 20 years. Make sure you’re part of that success story by booking up for a health MOT if you haven’t had one
What checks when?
Just like with heart disease, screening for some kinds of cancer can save lives by picking up early changes at a more treatable stage.
Bowel cancer screening from the privacy of your own home is offered every two years from 60-74 in England; 60-74 in Northern Ireland and Wales and 50-74 in Scotland.
Across the UK, every woman is invited to attend for breast cancer screening every three years from the age of 50-70. This is being extended in England from age 47-73, but in other UK countries you can still get screened over the age of 70 by contacting your local breast screening unit.
Cervical cancer screening uses a cervical smear test. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, women are invited to have a smear every three years from age 25-49 and every 5 years from 50-64, while in Scotland, you’ll be invited every three years from age 20-60.
The aorta is the biggest blood vessel in the body, carrying blood from the heart at high pressure. If this aorta balloons out to form an ‘ aneurysm’, there’s a risk of it rupturing, which can be fatal. All men in the UK are offered screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm via a painless ultrasound test at the age of 65. You can get screening if you’re over 65 if you’ve never had it – because abdominal aortic aneurysm is much more common in men than in women, only men are eligible.
All these tests are free – don’t miss out!
Heart a-flutter? Get an MOT!
While you can’t measure your blood pressure or cholesterol without a machine, you can check your pulse. Atrial fibrillation or AF, the commonest abnormal heart rhythm in the UK, affects over a million people and, if it’s not treated, hugely increases your risk of stroke. If you get palpitations, especially with tiredness, dizziness or shortness of breath, do see a doctor. And get into a habit as you get older of checking your pulse every so often. If it’s very irregular with no obvious rhythm, speak to your doctor.
Getting a health MOT – how do I do it?
Everyone in the UK is now entitled to a free NHS health check every five years from the age of 40. Some are done through GPs surgeries, with some practices running a dedicated MOT clinic. But some pharmacies offer a similar service – speak to your practice of pharmacy to see which is more convenient for you.
Look after your man – how are his waterworks?
The prostate gland at the base of the penis naturally gets bigger with age. This can lead to all sorts of waterworks problems – needing to pass water very often (including at night); rushing to the toilet but having to wait ages for the stream to start; or a poor urine stream. These can be signs of prostate cancer, but more commonly have a non-cancerous cause. Do encourage your man to get them checked – medication or possibly surgery can be very effective
Has your man lost that loving feeling?
Problems with performance in the bedroom, or erectile dysfunction , affects as many as 40% of men over 40. They get more common with age, but can be due to some medications (especially blood pressure tablets) or undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. Show your man how much you love him by having a gentle but honest discussion about your concerns and encouraging him to get checked out
With thanks to ‘My Weekly’ magazine where this article was originally published.