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Public should be encouraged to use free NHS health checks to help curb dementia

A 2% reduction in the number of people with heart problems leads to 10,000 fewer dementia cases

A 2% reduction in the number of people with heart problems leads to 10,000 fewer dementia cases

Health Checks
Health checks involve measuring blood pressure, weight and height. Picture: Alamy

More should be done to prompt people to have health checks, says NHS England.

Fewer than half of the 15 million people eligible for the free NHS check have come forward in the past five years.

NHS England clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health Alistair Burns said the benefits of health checks in preventing dementia should be stressed more.

Health checks, carried out by GPs and nurses for people aged 40-74, involve measuring blood pressure, weight and height.

Research suggests that someone who has had a stroke, type 2 diabetes or heart disease is about twice as likely to develop vascular dementia.

So for every 2% reduction in the number of people experiencing stroke or other heart problems, there are around 10,000 fewer dementia cases later in life.

As a result, Professor Burns said, the health check has since the summer included advice about dementia.

Opportunity

It has been shown that people who remembered messages about dementia during their health checks were more likely to make the appropriate lifestyle changes.

Professor Burns said: ‘Attending a free NHS health check is a great opportunity. Heart disease and dementia are two of the biggest health risks facing people in our country, and the national health check can stop both.

‘New year is exactly the right time to commit to taking a simple, free and potentially life-saving step.’

Alzheimer’s Society head of research James Pickett said a greater emphasis on dementia in the health check is important.

‘With no cure, prevention is a vital tool in the fight against dementia. Lifestyle changes can reduce the risk.

‘It is disappointing that so many people are not attending these assessments.’


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