Recently I worked with Bupa on their #everydaymoments campaign, and I shared how mindfulness meditation helped me find my “zen” and deal with anxiety.

As part of the campaign Bupa asked me if I’d like to go along for one of their Health Assessments, and share my experience.

I was actually super keen! I’d considered booking one of these in the past, not because of any particular health concern, but because I was just curious. I spent most of my adult years pretty unhealthy. I didn’t really do a lot of exercise, ate all the wrong foods unless I was on some kind of fad diet, drank too much and smoked, albeit not heavily. Although I’ve made a lot of changes in the last 5 years, I’ve always been curious as to whether the years had taken their toll.

Also, in my late 30s, I’m very active, and I figured it can’t hurt to have an MOT and make sure everything is working as it should.

What is a Health Assessment?

The Bupa Health Enhance assessment provides an in-depth view of your health.

It’s a 2-hour appointment, which includes up to an hour spent with a doctor, plus a comprehensive range of tests, including:

  • Body Composition: Weight, BMI, body fat percentage, waist-height ratio.
  • Heart Health: Blood pressure, checked three times, using both arms
  • Blood tests: Blood glucose, blood cholesterol and full blood count.
  • Urine test for blood, glucose and protein.
  • Musculoskeletal Assessment or a hearing test, whichever is more appropriate for you.
  • A smear test & breast examination or male-specific cancer checks.

Before the Appointment

Although I was looking forward to the assessment, as it approached I found myself feeling a little apprehensive. My mind was full of “What ifs?” and my competitive self started to feel like I could somehow “fail”.

I know my BMI is over 25 and I was preparing myself in advance for the same old advice I’ve got from the NHS in the past who always point me at low-calorie diets and couch to 5K programs that are completely inappropriate for me.  But I needn’t have worried.

I was sent a link to complete a  lifestyle questionnaire before the assessment. This gave me an opportunity to highlight in the notes any issues that I would like to discuss. I found this super useful, because often when you are face to face it’s easy to just say “everything is fine” when it isn’t. The questionnaire asked about my diet, exercise, and how much alcohol I drank, as well as my family history, and my personal history of health investigations.

The Health Assessment

On the day of the assessment, I was asked not to drink coffee beforehand, which is not my ideal start to a day, but I survived! I arrived a little late because of traffic, to a hospital that looked more like a pleasant country hotel.

The staff were super friendly, and it turned out the first appointment of the day had also been late because of the traffic, so it all worked out perfectly in the end. Hurrah!

I was asked to provide a urine sample and leave it in the bathroom, and then shown to gorgeous sunny waiting room with a TV and a huge coffee machine that taunted me with it’s caffeinated goodness. As I was waiting the previous client was shown in after her assessment and offered a coffee and a snack, which at least reassured me that there would be caffeine in my near future.

I was taken into a spacious office where the nurse took blood, measured my waist, took my height and weight and then conducted some excitingly sophisticated tests with electrodes to assess my body fat and lean mass.

She was very reassuring and my “Pass/Fail” mentality soon dissipated as I was reassured that the point of the test was to assess my health as a whole, physically and mentally, and simply assess my future risk of health problems if I kept going as I was.

The blood pressure test involves your blood pressure being taken in both arms, 3 times. My blood pressure often comes out borderline high when taken at the GP, ever since I was in my 20s, and this time was no different, except that this also highlighted that my blood pressure reading was higher on my left arm than my right arm. The nurse felt that as my blood pressure had always been high it was probably nothing to worry about, but she ran an electrocardiogram – a test that measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat – just in case. The result was fine.

The assessment also includes either a muscolskeletal assessment to look for muscle imbalances, or a hearing test. On advice from the nurse we decided that given my high activity levels a hearing check might be more appropriate. This thankfully didn’t highlight any problems.

The end of the first part of the assessment was the opportunity to talk through the results of my assessment. I was pleased to note that although my BMI was 28 the nurse didn’t place undue importance on this and the result was taken in conjunction with my other results. My lean body mass was fine and my waist to height ratio was fine and my body fat came out at 30%, which was higher than their recommended desirable 27% . I was also provided with an estimated energy requirement of 2581 calories per day at my current activity levels, or 1720 calories if I’m sitting around doing nothing!

We discussed my blood results and I was very pleased to find that my cholesterol and triglyceride tests were all excellent or normal, so I’m doing something right!

I was then led back to the waiting room, finally given my caffeine fix, and left to wait for the final part of the assessment with the Doctor.

The Doctors Appointment

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than 10 minutes with a Doctor in a professional capacity before, so having nearly a full hour to discuss any health concerns was great.

The Doctor went through my results and my lifestyle questionnaire, offering me advice for next steps for some concerns.

The primary concern the Doctor highlighted for me was alcohol consumption. In the bad old days I drank nearly every day, but these days I normally only have a drink on 3 days a week. However, I still have a tendency to binge drink at the weekends and with one pint of beer being about 2.5 – 3 units, those times I stop for a pint in the pub when out with the Pugs can easily push me well over the weekly recommended 14 units. She suggested some strategies I could use to decrease my consumption while still enjoying my life (hey, have half a pint!).

There were also a few final physical tests in this part of the assessment. I was already up to date with my smear test, but I was given a breast exam (which no one has ever shown me how to do before!) and the doctor listened to my heart. This was where I received the somewhat shocking information that she could hear a heart murmur.

I was told this was probably nothing to worry about, especially as my exercise tolerance is high, but that in conjunction with my high blood pressure I should make an appointment with my GP to have it checked out further.

I have a GP appointment booked and although I’m not “worried” I’ll certainly be pleased to have it checked out. I’m also quite interested as I have been to my GP in the past with palpitations, at the time I was given an an electrocardiogram (EKG), told it was normal, and the Doctor told me to drink less caffeine (and refused to believe I only drink 2 cups of coffee a day.) I shall be sure to fill you in with the results of this when I find out more in March!

After the Appointment

After the assessment I wasn’t just sent away with no follow up! My report with all the information that was discussed arrived by email within a few hours, and a copy was sent to my GP along with a covering letter regarding the heart murmur that needed further investigation.

At the appointment, I was given access to the Bupa Boost Health App and a Bupa’s Anytime Helpline which gives you 24-hour access to a team of qualified nurses if you have a health query.

I was also given access to some 12-week online coaching programmes to help improve sleep, reduce stress, lose weight or maintain healthy habits.

I will also receive a call from a lifestyle coach in about 6 weeks to discuss any issues that have come up since.

My Verdict

Overall I found the health check immensely reassuring. Although I know my BMI is high I have often been curious about my body fat and lean mass measurements, as I know that I am very active and have a fair amount of muscle mass. The way body composition was assessed took an all overview of lifestyle as well as simply looking at the numbers. It was also good to get my bloods checked and get some reassurance that although not perfect, what I was doing with my diet was working in the right direction.

Of course, the health check has also highlighted an area that needs looking into that I wasn’t at all worried about before. In a way this is also reassuring. The point of a health assessment isn’t to simply tell you if you are healthy or unhealthy, but to highlight ways you can improve your health, and look for potential issues in the future. Picking this problem up now is definitely better than just sitting around waiting for it to cause me problems in the future!

Booking an Assessment

If you fancy getting yourself checked out, then you don’t need to be a Bupa health insurance customer to book an appointment for a health check.

The question everyone asks me about this is, how much does it cost? You can book varying levels of Health Assessments. The most basic, Health Core, includes the initial tests that I received, but without the Doctor examination. The most comprehensive, Health Peak, includes everything I had, plus an Advanced fitness test measuring grip strength, VO2 max, anaerobic threshold and lung function assessment (I want this one!).

As a very rough guide, prices start around £180 for Health Core, up to £837 for Health Peak, but prices and availability of the tests will vary.

You can check out details on the different assessments, check prices and availability in your area on the Bupa Website. If you aren’t sure whether a health assessment would be appropriate for you then give them a call and ask any questions you might have.

Disclaimer: This post was kindly sponsored by Bupa health centres. I was provided with my Bupa Health Enhance assessment for free as part of the #EverydayMoments campaign. As ever, all opinions and heart murmurs are my own.