What does the term ‘health check’ mean to you? For many of us, it might involve a trip to the GP for a physical check-up, with things such as our heart rate and blood pressure being monitored. If you live in England and are aged between 40 and 70, with no pre-existing conditions, you may have been called for an NHS health check, a 20-minute chat with a health professional about whether you’re at risk of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Our physical health is undoubtedly important, yet there’s much more to a health check than maintaining the right weight and keeping fit. This Sunday is World Health Day, with a focus on ensuring everyone can access healthcare in their own community, when they need it. So, to mark the occasion, here’s our guide to how you could be looking after your wellbeing to stay in tip-top shape all round!
A healthy diet
A new report shows that poor diet is a bigger killer worldwide than smoking, cutting one in five lives short every year. Diet is one of the markers by which a healthy lifestyle can be measured, and shocking research last year showed that almost nine out of 10 Brits put their health at risk by taking part in at least one unhealthy behaviour, such as not eating the right foods.
One of the biggest culprits in our diet is salt, while many of us are eating too few whole grains and too little fruit. The NHS’ Eat Well guide advises eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day and basing meals on higher fibre, starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta. You should also include in your diet dairy or soya, beans, pulses, fish, eggs and protein, as well as choose unsaturated oils and spreads. And don’t forget to drink six to eight glasses of water or non-sugary drinks each day too!
The NHS advises that to stay healthy, adults under 65 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week, as well as strength exercises working all the major muscles. The aerobic activity could include brisk walking, jogging, cycling or dancing, while vigorous gardening, such as pushing a lawnmower, also counts.
GPs and other health professionals are increasingly referring patients to ‘social prescribing’ schemes, such as community gardening clubs and walking groups. If you’d like to become more active but don’t know where to start, ask at your GP practice what’s available.
Many of us have read the ‘one in four’ stat, yet we all have mental health, whether positive or in need of a boost. Taking care our physical fitness and mental wellbeing often go hand in hand, so setting aside time for self-care and doing the things that make you happy can also provide the motivation to go to the gym or pound the pavements! Top up your mental health with our seven tips that can easily be incorporated into your day, and start noticing the difference!
Unlike car or home cover, private medical insurance isn’t one that you’re required to have, and many people think they’ll never need it. But the fact is that the number of people living with diabetes has more than doubled in 20 years, while one in two people will get cancer - and it’s too late after a diagnosis to take out the cover that will help you access speedier treatment.
Other hidden benefits of health insurance include confidential mental health support, speech therapy, recuperation time and discounted health screening. Some policies also provide access to digital GP services, meaning you don’t always have to visit the surgery.
If you run your own business or manage the HR department, you may also want to give your staff a health check! There’s lots of evidence to suggest that a happy, valued workforce takes less time off work and is more productive, and good employee benefits such as company health insurance can play a big role in this.
And if you’re moving abroad for a prolonged period, such as to work or to retire, you’ll no longer automatically be entitled to receive free treatment on the NHS and may wish to compare international health insurance quotes to help avoid large medical bills.
Investing in the time to give your health an overhaul can pay dividends. You’ll feel better for it, honestly!