Testing for high blood pressure can save lives – but experts say that unnecessary tests, such as whole body scans, may just find problems that probably don’t need treatment. So what should you be tested for?
Most health checks are designed to look for risk factors or early signs of diseases – the two most common being heart disease or cancer. A quarter of premature deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes) and an estimated 50-80% of them are preventable. So any checks that could help early detection are surely a good thing.
Dr Matt Kearney, a GP and the national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention, welcomes the growing trend for people to take control of their own health, but he says that the challenge is judging which tests are likely to do more harm than good. “We should democratise health information so everyone has access to it; doctors need to welcome people knowing more and help them to navigate options. Screening is attractive to individuals who look for reassurance that they’re healthy.”