Do you know if your blood pressure is dangerously high? Or if your blood sugar levels mean you’re on the verge of type 2 diabetes? These problems can usually be picked up during vital tests carried out at your GP surgery.
But, at present, routine screening and annual health check-ups are suspended, to allow more time to deal with acute problems and Covid-19 cases. So, with heart health and diabetes being risk factors, monitoring your own health has become crucial.
With this in mind, here are the essential health checks you can do right now, from home. There’s every chance they may save your life.
At present, routine screening and annual health check-ups are suspended, to allow more time to deal with acute problems and Covid-19 cases, says Eve Simmons
A TOE TAP TO CHECK YOUR HEART
How often: Once a month
More than a million Britons suffer a common heart rhythm problem, putting them at risk of a deadly stroke.
Yet the condition, called atrial fibrillation, often goes unnoticed, with the symptoms passed off as tiredness or anxiety. But a 60-second test, completed roughly once a month, can flag-up warning signs.
Sitting on a chair, put your first two fingers of one hand over your wrist on the other arm, or at the side of your neck, until you can feel your pulse. For one minute, tap your feet every time you feel your pulse beat.
If the heart rhythm is normal, toe taps will be evenly spaced. But if the tapping is irregular – very fast and then slower – it could be a sign of atrial fibrillation.
‘If you’re tapping regularly, it’s OK, but if the tap is consistently uneven you should visit your GP,’ says Dr Howard Marshall, a consultant cardiologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. The doctor will do further tests and can prescribe a range of treatments.
THE CHAIR TEST THAT WARNS OF A PAINFUL FALL
How often: Twice weekly to monthly
Falls are the most common cause of injury-related fatality in the UK. Muscle mass declines sharply as we age, causing a third of over-65s to suffer an accident every year.
Health chiefs recommend twice- weekly strength-boosting activities, such as yoga or lifting weights, to prevent this. But first, find out how much exercise you can manage with a simple strength test.
More than a million Britons suffer a common heart rhythm problem, putting them at risk of a deadly stroke (file photo of a woman checking her pulse)
Standing with your back to a chair and feet wide apart, slowly sit down, but don’t let your bottom reach the chair. Then slowly stand again. Try to repeat the exercise continually for 90 seconds. If you can manage more than a minute, your strength is above average. Anything under 30 seconds indicates very poor strength in the thighs and buttocks – the largest muscle groups.
If you perform poorly, practise the exercise twice weekly, or perform gentle yoga to build up strength. Otherwise, over-65s should test themselves monthly, or before adopting a new exercise regime.
A PIN-PRICK FOR DIABETES
How often? Every two to three months
With regular health checks for over-40s on hold this year, millions will miss their first warning sign of type 2 diabetes. A blood test called HbA1c which measures average blood sugar levels can indicate diabetes, and prediabetes – when levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered diabetic.
Simply prick your finger to draw blood and send off the sample, which is analysed in a laboratory (file photo)
Diagnosis at this point is crucial, as lifestyle changes such as weight loss can stop the condition progressing. Home HbA1c tests available online are almost identical to the one carried out by the GP.
For a kit, go to a reputable pharmacist, or try monitormyhealth.org.uk, which is NHS-backed.
Simply prick your finger to draw blood and send off the sample, which is analysed in a