Doing your annual health check in 2021
Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Understanding your baseline physical and mental health forms an important part of building a healthy lifestyle. This blog post is part 2 of the Mind and Body series which discusses tips for a healthy lifestyle. This blog post focuses on the physical health check. If you haven't read part 1 of this series click here and read it first.
Tips for a healthy lifestyle
Having a physical health check can give an indicator of your overall health and can also identify any issues that may require review by a healthcare professional. A full annual health check should be performed by a suitably qualified healthcare professional. I also discuss how you can complete a basic DIY check up.
If you are persistently feeling low, distressed, worried or having symptoms you are worried about, speak to your GP or a suitable healthcare professional or call NHS 111.
*If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about harming yourself, distressed or having difficulty coping get urgent help*
If you are under 40 years old, fit and well and do not have any pre-existing medical conditions, at a minimum, your blood pressure, pulse and Body Mass Index (BMI) should be checked at least once a year. However you can also perform the blood tests discussed below.
If you are 40 years old or more you should definitely have your vital signs and blood tests (see below) or have a full annual health check performed by a healthcare professional.
You can attend a pharmacy or the reception of your GP surgery to have your weight, BMI, blood pressure and pulse checked.
You can make an appointment to see the healthcare assistant at your GP surgery to have these checked.
You can book a full annual health check provided by a private healthcare provider e.g. Livesmart, BUPA (these will include a range of tests and vary in price)
You can do it yourself by buying a blood pressure monitor (that measures blood pressure and pulse) and weighing scales for home use.
If you are in the UK, free NHS health checks are available every 5 years from age of 40 until 74. This only applies if you do not have a pre-existing chronic medical condition. If you have a chronic condition you will have more regular checks. These checks include blood pressure, BMI check and a limited range of blood tests to check your cholesterol levels and to exclude diabetes.
Speak to or see your GP or the Practice Nurse if on more that one occasion:
Your blood pressure is above or equal to 130/90 mmHg. Although Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a persistent blood pressure of 140/90mmHg or more, it's good practice to repeat and monitor blood pressure regularly if its 130/90mmHg or more.
Your blood pressure is less than 90/60mmHg
Your pulse rate is above or equal to 100 beats per minute
Your pulse rate is under 60 beats per minute.
If you have a medical condition or are on regular medication, find out your recommended blood pressure range from your Practice nurse or GP.
Find information about BMI and how to calculate it on NHS.UK.
These blood tests are the basic set of tests you can have to as part of your MOT for good mental and physical health.
If you are experiencing persistent tiredness, low mood or low energy your should consult a healthcare professional such as a GP.
You can arrange to have the blood tests at home (by yourself with a finger prick kit or by a nurse/phlebotomist visiting your home) or a local clinic. If you arrange for private blood tests you may receive better value for your money if you buy a standard or pre-selected package of blood tests* offered by the company.
You may be able to get the blood test forms from your GP and have them taken at a local phlebotomy clinic.
You should to speak to or see your registered GP if the tests do show any abnormalities. If you use an online blood testing service, they will provide you with the results and report which can be downloaded and sent to your GP.
The report issued by the healthcare provider will guide you on what to do.
If the results are all normal, you do not need to repeat the blood tests again more often than once a year.
Full blood count- used to identify anaemia
Thyroid function tests – used to diagnose a thyroid disorder
HbA1c -this test is used to diagnose Diabetes
Kidney tests called Urea & Electrolytes
Liver tests called Liver Function tests
Blood lipid profile - blood lipids e.g. cholesterol are not directly related to mood or energy levels but I have included this as part of an overall health check for cardiovascular risk
You should speak to or see a healthcare professional for at least one annual check-up if you are regularly taking medicines that you buy from the pharmacy or are prescribed by the GP and/or you have a long-term medical condition.
If you are taking any medicines that you buy from a pharmacy or prescribed by your Doctor you should have a medication review by a pharmacist or GP. Often this can be done remotely by video, phone or by email.
Chronic medical conditions review
If you have a medical condition that causes regular symptoms or requires regular medication, you are at greater risk of having a mental health condition such as Depression. It is important to have a review with your General Practitioner and if you are having specialist care, by specialists (Nurses, Doctors, Physiotherapists etc) to try to optimise your health.
The final part of our Mind and Body series (Part 3) will focus on sleep.
*Blood testing from home will be discussed in a future blog post.
Information on Blood Pressure Measurement, NHS
Looking after your mental health, Mental Health Foundation
Thriva (At home blood testing)
Medichecks (At home blood testing)
How to choose a blood pressure monitor and measure your blood pressure at home, British Heart Foundation
Find more information resources in Part 1 of this series
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