NHS Health checks "helped to prevent heart attacks"

NHS health checks may have helped contribute to a reduction in heart attacks, according to a study from several UK Universities.1

The health checks, which originated in 2009, are offered to people aged between 40 and 74 and examine risk factors linked to heart disease, stroketype 2 diabeteskidney disease and some types of dementia.

While the checks are not mandatory, it is interesting to see that older people and those from more deprived backgrounds were the most likely to take the offer up. By 2012-13, up to a third of all eligible people had been to an NHS health check.

During the checks, researchers found that more than one in five people needed a follow-up for a particular risk, and within a year 19.3% were started on statins while 8.8% were started on medication to lower their blood pressure. Researchers used this information to estimate that around 2,500 cases of a major cardiovascular event had been prevented over a five- year period.

This study provides useful information but it does have some flaws. One is that we are unable to tell if all the new prescriptions, treatments and lifestyle changes were a direct result of health checks, or whether there were additional factors. As a result, more research is certainly required, but the results initially at least are encouraging.

Reference

1 Robson J, Dostal I, Sheikh A, et al. The NHS Health Check in England: an evaluation of the first 4 years. BMJ Open. Published online January 13 2016

Headlines

NHS Health Checks scheme hailed as 'remarkable success'. Pulse, January 14 2016

'Successful' NHS Health Check helped prevent 2,500 heart attacks, study says. GP Magazine, January 14 2016