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BLOG – The impact of alcohol and smoking on your risk score

BLOG – The impact of alcohol and smoking on your risk score

At an NHS Health Check you will go through a mini-MOT-like assessment. The NHS Health Check is a free check-up of your overall health. It can tell you whether you're at higher risk of getting certain health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and stroke. The higher your risk score, the more likely you are to develop one of these illnesses. You will be given lifestyle advice based on your results to help lower your risk of these conditions. If you're over 65, you will also be told the signs and symptoms of dementia to look out for.

We asked one of the health check practitioners, Navdeep, to provide an insight on what impact alcohol and smoking have on your risk score during an NHS Health Check.

Alcohol The first part of the assessment is an alcohol dependency risk assessment.

We begin by carrying out an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C) – This is a brief set of questions that can help identify patients who are hazardous drinkers or have active alcohol use disorders (including alcohol abuse or dependence).

If the participant’s answers indicate an increasing or higher risk of hazardous drinking we will complete a full alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT).

We will pc. Each question is scored out of 4, with an overall score of 8 or higher . indicating that the participant may be drinking an amount of alcohol that’s likely to be harming their health

Alcohol consumption can increase both blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as increase the likelihood of gaining weight especially around the waist which can put pressure on vital organs. Therefore, the health check practitioner will advise the participant to reduce the amount of their alcohol intake and provide participants with information of what the next plan of action for them could be. Health check practitioners will also signpost them to appropriate programs that would help and give support if that is something the participant wanted.

Higher scores can indicate they could have an alcohol dependence disorder. In these cases the health check practitioner would refer the participant to their GP for a cirrhosis assessment and signpost them towards specialist support to help them cut down on alcohol.

They would also be signposted and advised that it is in their best interest to accept this support because if they continue down this path, they are very likely harming their health and they are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

To reduce this risk, the NHS guidelines advise for men and women to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week on a regular basis, ensuring they have several alcohol-free days a week to improve overall health.

Smoking If the participant smokes, the health check practitioner will explain how quitting smoking could improve their health and offer them support and advice to help them quit smoking. Smoking has a lot of side effects to their health and puts you at a higher risk of a heart attack and stroke.

Smoking causes the arteries to narrow and if you smoke and have high blood pressure, the arteries will narrow more quickly, and this dramatically increases your risk of heart of lung disease in the future. Smoking can also raise cholesterol which widens the risk of more likely serious problems like heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

On the NHS Health Check QRISK assessment, smoking adds on years to a healthy heart age and increases your risk to CVD. By quitting, this will reduce the age and can help make your heart healthier. After the NHS Health check, with the participants best interest in mind, the health practitioner can signpost the participant to free local NHS stop smoking services – every region in Norfolk has this service. Research shows people are more likely to quit with support rather than doing it alone.