Got your NHS Health Check scores? Now is the time to take action to improve these results and give yourself a better chance of enjoying a longer, healthier life.
It's a myth that once your youth has passed there's nothing more that can be done to stem the onset of decline and disability.
The truth is that you can transform your results, your prospects and your life chances even into old age. Research shows that even small changes to your habits can have a surprising effect on your health.
For example, giving up smoking dramatically reduces your risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer, and so does regular physical activity. Making these changes could add many years to your life.
What you'll need to do
Depending on your NHS Health Check results, you may need to act to:
- lose some weight
- reduce your blood pressure
- lower your cholesterol level
Fortunately, all of these are possible and often take only a little perseverance to achieve. During your NHS Health Check, your healthcare professional will have discussed a plan of action for you to improve your scores. This plan includes personalised advice on what action to take. It's important that you stick to the plan you outlined together.
Your personal plan will hinge on your specific results. If the NHS Health Check reveals that you're not at high risk, this doesn't mean that you can forget about your health. Your risk of cardiovascular diseases increases with age, so we all need to do a little to keep our risk down.
Your action plan to improve your scores
By the end of your NHS Health Check, you should have an idea of your risk of disease and what to do about it. Whatever your personal action plan, agreed between you and your healthcare professional, the following steps are certain and will improve your NHS Health Check scores five years from now.
The biggest single improvement to your health that you can possibly make is to avoid tobacco. If you're a smoker, the risk of getting many cardiovascular diseases drops dramatically when you give up.
You don't have to go cold turkey alone – help is at hand from NHS stop smoking advisers, who can offer advice, support and free quitting aids.
Exercise has been decribed as "the best medicine ever invented". Doing the recommended 150 minutes of your choice of exercise a week – whether it's walking, dancing or swimming – will help to bring your weight and blood pressure down. NHS Choices has a host of ideas and tools to help you get started getting fit your way. If you're keen to get going straight away, why not try the NHS Couch to 5K running plan?
Eating a balanced diet, replete with vegetables, fruit, grains and some meat and dairy, will give you a great chance of minimising your risk of cardiovascular disease. The eatwell plate will give you a great way of visualising just what this healthy diet looks like. Check out our healthy recipes to give you some tasty ideas.
One of the key ways to reduce your cholesterol levels, and therefore your risk of heart problems, is to reduce bad fats in your diet. Find out more about fats in your diet in Fat: the facts.
You can also do wonders for your blood pressure readings by restricting your salt intake to no more than 6g a day. Find out more in Salt: the facts.
You should consider food labels as your allies when trying to eat well. Take a little time to think about the food that you are buying and plan to stay within the recommended levels of calories, fats and salt. Learn more about how to make healthier food choices in Food labels.
Cut back on your drinking
Drinking alcohol can have an effect on your blood pressure. But it's also worth bearing in mind just how many calories are in your drinks. Five pints of lager a week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year, equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.
To reduce your risk of harming your health, men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week. Reducing your intake and having several alcohol-free days a week is a great start to a healthier you. Find out more about low risk drinking.
Being overweight matters because people with an overweight BMI are at greater risk of a range of serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
Need help with losing weight? Download our free NHS diet plan and start today.
If your blood pressure was high, your healthcare professional may have offered you blood pressure-lowering medicines. Likewise, you may be prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs. These can have a very beneficial effect on your health, but you are likely to need to take them for a long time. Doctors will usually advise lifestyle changes to reduce your need for medication and lower your risk of side effects before prescribing these drugs.
Blood pressure drugs
There are different kinds of blood pressure-lowering medicines, including ACE inhibitors, which relax your blood vessels, calcium channel blockers, which widen your arteries, thiazide diuretics, which flush excess water and salt from the body, and beta-blockers, which reduce your heart rate and force.
The most commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs are called statins. Statins can be prescribed to help lower high cholesterol, whether it's caused by a lack of exercise or a diet high in fat. They can also help people who have an inherited condition that causes high cholesterol in their blood (this is called familial hypercholesterolaemia).
Taking your medicine
Your healthcare professional will talk to you about the medicine that's right for you and how to take it. Remember, if your doctor does prescribe medicine, it's important to take it as directed and to only stop your medication or increase your dose after discussing it with them first. Find out more in Understanding your medicines.
Your local pharmacist is a trained expert in medicines, and can provide information and advice about your medicines, how to take them and what to do if you have any side effects.
Technology to support your action plan
Now you've got an action plan, you can use online tools and technology to help you on your way.
Get started making healthy changes with these health and fitness apps.