A “health MOT” could be offered to everyone over 40, the newspapers reported today. The NHS “plans to screen over-40s for heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and the risk of strokes”, said the Daily Mail . Announcing the national vascular check programme, health secretary Alan Johnson said: “We could prevent 9,500 heart attacks and strokes every year and save 2,000 lives.”
Vascular disease is caused by the build up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease are all types of vascular disease. All these diseases share a similar set of risk factors: smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels are all known to lead to a build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels.
Vascular disease affects more than four million people in the UK and is responsible for a fifth of all hospital admissions. As the risk factors for vascular disease are well known, it is possible to identify people who are at high risk of developing vascular disease and work with them to try to prevent it.
The government proposes that everyone aged between 40 and 74 will be offered a vascular check.
If you visit your GP, it is likely that they will ask you similar questions and perform similar tests as part of a routine check-up. However, the full vascular information provided by the proposed check is currently only known for about 20% of people. The screening programme aims to reach 100%.
At the check, measurements of height, weight and blood pressure will be taken and questions about your health and family history will be asked. A simple blood test will also be carried out.
The check will provide a personal assessment report, which gives each person a level of risk of vascular disease and advice about how to reduce it. For people who are at low risk, this could be general advice about lifestyle and diet. Those at higher risk could be referred to a specialist service for more support, such as a stop smoking service, or be prescribed medication that could help lower blood pressure or reduce cholesterol.
There will be a period of consultation before the vascular check programme begins. The aim is to make vascular checks available in GP surgeries, pharmacies and community health settings from 2009.