The importance of physical health checks: how your physical health and mental health are linked
Written by Barbara Iwatt
Physical health checks are important for keeping us healthy. Getting an annual physical health check means you can prevent illnesses, or detect them sooner and begin to get better.
Our new service, My Practice My Health, supports adults living with severe mental illness (SMI) to access annual health checks.
Getting a check-up isn’t always easy. It can sometimes be difficult to arrange, and going to the doctors can make people scared or anxious. Our service is designed to support people through the process, and live healthier lives as a result.
Why we’re supporting people getting physical health checks
People with severe mental illness may have a lower life expectancy
Research shows that individuals living with SMI have on an average a 15–20-year lower life expectancy compared to the general population. Physical health checks can play a key role in helping people with severe mental illness live longer, healthier, happier lives.
People with severe mental illness are less likely to get physical health checks
Understandably, people who have severe mental illness may not consider their physical health a priority, putting off physical health checks in favour of focusing on their mental health. But these checks are still important, and shouldn’t be neglected.
We want to make it easy as possible for everyone to access physical health care.
Physical health and mental health are closely linked
Our physical health can have a direct impact on our mental health. If we’re tired, in pain, or otherwise not at our best, we can feel anxious, angry, or despondent. If an illness or condition isn’t diagnosed, and we don’t visit the doctors to get checked, this can go on for years, or even a lifetime.
If we take care of our physical health, our mental health can often improve as well. By supporting people to get their physical health checked, we can help them improve their mental health at the same time.
What happens at a physical health check up
Physical health checks in the UK monitor pulse rate, blood pressure, weight, body mass index, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as individuals’ smoking and substance use habits.
The purpose of the annual health check is to detect any illnesses or conditions, and to avoid health complications developing or getting worse.
Blood pressure and pulse
Blood pressure tests can help doctors understand the likelihood of a patient developing heart diseases, such as strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, and blood clots.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Calculated based on height and weight ratio, BMI can help indicate diseases linked to obesity, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal conditions, or organ failure.
Obtained via a blood test, cholesterol levels indicate the amount of fatty acid present in our bodies. While cholesterol is needed for optimal functioning, if there is a high proportion of it in the blood, it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Monitoring blood sugar is the easiest and best way to prevent diabetes, and to avoid diabetes related complications. If someone has high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia), it could mean that they are diabetic, or at risk of becoming diabetic (pre-diabetic).
Whilst drinking alcohol in small quantities can be safe, drinking regularly can cause health problems. These health problems include increased risks of cardiovascular diseases, liver problems and certain cancers, if more than 14 units of alcohol are consumed per week.
Cigarettes contain nicotine, tar and other substance that are harmful to the human body, and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers.
How we can help with physical health checks
We can help you overcome worries around the appointment
Going to the doctors can be scary, especially if you think something might be wrong, or if you haven’t been for a long time. We’re here to help you deal with any worries, fears, or anxieties around the check-up.
We can help you book the appointment
While every GP Surgery has a slightly different way of booking and carrying out these checks, they are in general quick and easy to book by phone, or visiting the GP’s website.
However, not everyone feels able or comfortable speaking to someone on the phone, or they may not have access to the internet. Part of our My Practice My Health service is us booking the appointments on behalf of patients who can’t, making the process easier for them.
We can accompany you to the appointment
For some people, visiting the doctor can be a scary experience. Part of our service is offering accompaniment to the appointment, helping to reassure and support those who might be anxious around the check-up.
We’ve put together a toolkit that explains all the tests that occur at a health check, with space for patients to fill in their results, and write the next steps they may need to take, please download it below and print it out for use:
If you, or someone you know needs help with accessing their physical health checks please use the online referral form on our service page to refer them to the service. Our colleagues will be in touch within 1-2 working days to follow up.
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Posted on: 3rd January 2023