03 January 2019

Millions failing to take free health check that could spot dementia

NHS England is urging people over the age of 40 to make a New Year’s resolution to take up a free health check, that may help to identify dementia early. 

Fewer than half of eligible people in England have taken up the offer over the last five years, despite it being free for people between 40 and 74-years-old.

The 20-minute assessment, carried out by a GP or nurse, involves testing blood pressure, weight and height and could stop people developing physical conditions as well as dementia.

Alistair Burns, national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health for NHS England said: “Heart disease and dementia are two of the biggest health risks facing people in our country and the national health check will help stop both.

“Attending a free NHS health check is a great opportunity to discuss existing health conditions, and to work out how to reduce the risk of developing dementia and other illness in the future.”

According to NHS England, identifying people with an irregular heartbeat or high blood pressure and giving them treatment would help to prevent dangerous blood clots which could lead to strokes.

Similarly, if more people went for their health check, the number of people having a stroke or other heart problems would reduce, potentially preventing thousands of cases of vascular dementia.

Laura Phipps, head of communications at Alzheimer's Research UK said: “There is good evidence to suggest that what's good for the heart is also good for the brain, but while 77 percent people believe they can reduce their risk of heart disease, only 34 percent of people know they can reduce their risk of dementia.

“Research shows that midlife is a crucial time to take action that will help maintain a healthy brain into later life. With dementia now the UK's leading cause of death, we must encourage everyone to take positive steps to maintain good brain health throughout life and into older age.”

NHS health checks are offered to all individuals aged between 40 and 74 with no pre-existing health conditions. They are provided every five years.

For more information go to www.nhs.uk