Kathryn Lundy tries a health check available in workplace

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Most of us know by now what we should be doing to maintain a healthy lifestyle – and despite worrying obesity figures, plenty of us are getting our five-a-day, we are getting regular exercise, fewer of us smoke and many of us are mindful of alcohol units and hydrogenated fats.

But even for those of us who do feel fairly happy with the efforts we are making, an outwardly healthy body and mind can often conceal underlying health issues that, if left alone, can pose serious – even fatal – risks.

This is where the importance of consistent medical care and regular health checks becomes paramount to ensuring we are in the best possible shape we can be.

You may lead a relatively virtuous lifestyle, and take on thrice-weekly gym sessions, a balanced diet and regular optician’s and dentist’s appointments, but how often do you go to your GP for a full MOT?

‘Many people don’t get their health checked out regularly, whether it’s through fear, or because they think they feel healthy enough,’ says Carl Laidler, who is the director of screening programmes for Prevent plc.

The UK-based company makes regular visits to Jersey and Guernsey to conduct health screens for employees at a number of Island workplaces.

Over the last four years it has screened more than 25,000 people in the UK, and though Prevent plc has long offered health insurance packages to Channel Island workplaces, the health screening service has only recently been launched here.

The reason it has become successful, says Carl, is not just because it is offered free to staff – employers pick up the bill – but also because it is quick, non-invasive and much less daunting than a clinic or hospital visit.

Carl says: ‘It definitely takes the “fear factor” out of a normal screening. People usually feel less bothered about going down to a room in their own workplace because it’s less clinical.

‘Plus it’s a lot cheaper for employers, and usually free for employees – I know that some companies were flying their executives to London for a full BUPA screening, which costs about £250, and you’ve got the flight costs on top of that. And how can you guarantee that the results will be accurate?

‘Flying to London for a day for a full health check can be a stressful process in itself, and your stress levels might reflect that.’

In some cases, the results have proved critical – a number of screenings have actually saved lives – but the most surprising results can often come from those who, on the surface, would seem fighting fit.

Gemma Hawkes, who is a consultant for parent company IHC Ltd, says: ‘We screened one company executive recently and he looked to be in great shape – he ate well, had an ideal BMI and had run numerous marathons. But we found that his blood pressure was dangerously high.

‘It can be a shock, especially if you think you’re fit and healthy, but that’s what these screenings are there for. Hopefully we can identify problems at an early stage.’

But it is actually tougher encouraging those who know they are in poor health – whether through smoking, overeating or lack of exercise – to have a screen.

Carl says: ‘One of the things we don’t do is tell people off for smoking. People know it’s bad – they don’t need us to tell them to give up. It’s one of the reasons smokers will avoid having a screen, so we don’t dwell on it.

‘But the screen can identify other problems caused as a result, which in turn could save their life. Likewise, if someone is very overweight, or very unfit, they already know what they need to do. We can just check for other problems and give advice on how to lead a healthier lifestyle.’

Two years ago, Carl screened a company director and found that he also had very high blood pressure, which could have led to a heart attack, a stroke or kidney damage.

‘We gave him some advice and asked him to follow some guidelines to try to bring the blood pressure down. During that time we kept in contact with him, and he was able to ask us any questions. Two years later we screened him again and he had improved significantly,’ he says.

Along with a blood pressure check, the health screen includes a cholesterol test, a diabetes test, a body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) check, a metabolic rate test and a lung function test, as well as a health fitness test and a nutrition assessment.

It also includes a mini ECG, which is used to record heart activity, a visceral fat test, which tests how much fat you have surrounding the internal organs, a bone mass assessment, which can tell whether or not you are prone to osteoporosis, a body water test, and urinalysis, which can test for a number of different problems.

Men can also opt to have a PSA test, which can help detect prostate cancer.

Carl says: ‘People are becoming much more interested in their own health and I think employers are starting to recognise that. Although they do have certain obligations as far as healthcare is concerned, many realise they have a duty of care, and they want to go one step further for their staff.

‘Often we are being asked “What else can I do for my staff?” It’s not just a question of looking after employees when they are sick, but it’s about taking active steps to try and prevent illness occurring.

‘Through the screenings we can give people a better chance of picking up any issues early on, and then we can advise on what steps to take once the problem has been diagnosed.’

The health screen

I HAVE never had a health screen before, and as a fit and healthy 25-year-old, I hadn’t considered it necessary.

Yet Carl says plenty more people my age are using the service, because it can give a very good indication of current and future health issues.

Although the screen is intended only as a ‘snapshot’ of your general health at a single moment in time, it can flag up problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, high stress levels and propensity to osteoporosis – which, of course, can be useful to know at any age.

The screen itself begins with a 30- minute consultation, and I am asked to fill out a questionnaire that relates to my diet and exercise habits, my work, my medical history and that of my family. I’m also weighed and measured, which allows Carl to work out my BMI. The ideal is between 20 and 25.

The screen then continues with a series of tests, including:

Body fat percentage

The test works by measuring the resistance to a tiny electrical current flowing through the body and then calculating ‘lean water’ tissue and ‘water depleted’ tissue (fatty tissue). BMI and body fat are seen as key indicators of health – in terms of body fat percentage, a 20–29- year-old woman should be aiming for less than 28%, while a man of the same age should be less than 20%.

Body water percentage

Maintaining a healthy body water percentage, by drinking plenty of water, ensures the body functions efficiently and reduces the risk of future problems. The target is 60% for men and 50% for women.

Visceral fat

Even if you have a low body fat percentage you may still have a high level of visceral fat – the fat surrounding the organs. Having healthy levels reduces the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure and delays the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Bone mass

Having a good level of bone mass is a healthy objective if you wish to prepare your bones for the future. It can be increased by exercise. The target is 3.32 kg for men and 2.41 kg for women.

Resting metabolic rate

This works out the number of calories your body needs to function effectively. Once you know your resting metabolic rate, you can calculate the number of calories you need to lose weight steadily, without reducing your metabolic rate.

Blood pressure

People rarely feel ill from high blood pressure, so it can go undiagnosed for some time. The test concentrates on diastolic blood pressure, which is the lower reading and tends to be more accurate. You should be aiming for between 70 and 85.

Pulse rate

Pulse should be monitored regularly. The target is between 60 and 75 beats per minute.


A cholesterol level of 4.5 is seen as mildly elevated, requiring attention, and 5.5 or more is a referral to your GP. It is the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries and is usually caused by saturated and hydrogenated fats.

Random blood glucose

This measures the glucose in the bloodstream and can be indicative of diabetes. A level of 7 or above is treated as elevated and requiring attention.

Peak flow test

For this test you are required to blow into a breathalyser-type machine. It reveals lung capacity volume, and a below average reading indicates the need to stop smoking or increase exercise.

Flexibility test

This is quite straightforward – you simply need to demonstrate whether or not you can touch your toes. If not, you may need to increase your exercise.

*Also included in the screen is a mini ECG, a stress test and urinalysis.

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