Mum-of-one takes top-to-bottom health MOT to understand risk of Covid

Would YOU pay £5,500 for a check-up? Femail journalist tries a head-to-toe exam involving 45 blood tests, MRI scans and hearing tests to find out how healthy she REALLY is – with surprising results

  • Lisa Snell underwent full health MOT to reveal any underlying health conditions
  • Mother-of-one, 39, has family history of diabetes and hypertension 
  • She tried a £5,500 examination at a London clinic involving a battery of tests   

This year has made us realise more than ever just how important health really is. But how much would you pay to find out about all of your underlying issues? 

Private clinics across the UK offer to carry out a battery of tests to find out just how healthy you really are, offering advice on everything from your eyesight to your body fat percentage. 

Among them is Preventicum, in London, which charges £5,500 for the Ultimate Assessment – a head-to-toe check-up that takes over five hours to complete and includes MRI scans of your brain and heart, as well as 45 different blood tests, urine analysis and hearing tests. Results are returned the same day and a doctor goes through the findings with you before you leave the luxury clinic. 

Such thorough examinations help ease the anxious minds of wealthy clients, particularly in the age of Covid-19 when underlying health issues increase the risk of suffering more severe symptoms.  

Journalist and mother-of-one Lisa Snell, 39, tried out the eye-wateringly expensive Ultimate Assessment to see if it is really worth the money. With a family history of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart attack, Lisa wanted to know if she had anything to worry about. 

Here, she shares her experience at Preventicum – and the results of her extensive tests…  

The Ultimate Assesment consists of over 40 blood tests, urine analysis, a hearing and eye test and an MRI scan, ultrasound examinations, resting and exercise ECG, genetic testing for cancers, as well as detailed doctor led examination

With underlying health conditions posing a risk in relation to Covid-19 the mother-of-one set out to find out if there were any undiagnosed issues to be concerned about

On paper it doesn’t look good. I’ve got a family history of hypertension and my father and paternal grandmother had type 2 diabetes.

My blood pressure has been creeping up and I’d been working really hard before the pandemic to bring it down.

My doctor warned me to increase my cardio and lose 10kgs, and I did! I felt great. Then lockdown hit, and in a familiar tale for many of us – I drank and ate my way through it. 

In those early lockdown days, filled with anxiety and uncertainty I often caught myself catastrophising over potential underlying health conditions I might have, but just didn’t know about.

Can you blame me? My dad was 37 when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the same year I was born, and dead from a heart attack 20 years later.

I was the same age when my son arrived and quickly discovered there’s nothing like becoming a parent to get you thinking about your own mortality, and that was before a global pandemic.

What is involved in the £5,500 check-up? 

The Ultimate Assessment offers a thorough assessment of current health and potential future risk factors. It is usually offered to people aged 35 and over. 

  • Focused MRI scans of your brain, heart, central arteries and organs of the abdomen and the pelvis
  • Ultrasound examinations
  • Exercise stress echo
  • Resting ECG 
  • Spirometry
  • Over 45 different blood tests
  • Urine analysis
  • Eye pressure test
  • Hearing tests 
  • One to one consultations with Preventicum doctors including a same day results consultation 

It wasn’t long after my son’s birth that I took out life insurance, feeling reassured to know he would be looked after financially if anything were to happen.

But I don’t plan on going the same way as my dad, and want to be around for a long time to come. If there are changes I need to make, I want to know now.

So once lockdown restrictions were finally eased, I booked myself in for a comprehensive, doctor led checkup at the private Preventicum clinic on Chancery Lane, in London. The Ultimate Assessment (£5,500) was going give me full insight into every aspect of my health.

It’s designed to diagnose existing conditions, evaluate potential risk factors and if necessary develop a tailored health plan.

While coronavirus had got me on my bike and I was cycling almost 30km a day, four days a week, and my diet was fairly good – I couldn’t shake my concerns and was keen to know exactly what was going on inside.

The Preventicum clinic is part health setting, part fancy hotel and when I arrived, after clearing the Covid checks, I was escorted to my private en-suite room.

This would be my base for the day with a computer to watch television and use the Internet, somewhere to relax and enjoy the lunch I had pre-ordered, as well as a shower room and toilet.

The clinic provides workout clothes for the day, a water bottle and a reusable facemask. They even hand out mini bottles of sanitising spray – they’d thought of everything.

After changing into more comfortable clothes, it was off for bloodwork and to have my blood pressure checked, I also had my body composition read where I was disappointed to discover I was 1kg heavier than I thought I was and 1cm shorter.

While at the luxury state-of-the-art clinic I had more than 40 blood tests as well as urine analysis, a hearing and eye test, an MRI scan, ultrasound examinations, resting and exercise ECG, genetic testing for cancers, as well as detailed doctor led examination including a breast examination and a smear test.

Preventicum’s state of the art MRI scanner gives patients the option to listen to music or watch a film

The body composition scan would reveal whether I had any visceral fat to be concerned about. 

Too much of any body fat isn’t good news, but compared to subcutaneous fat, the kind that lies underneath the skin, visceral fat is more likely to raise the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, stroke and high cholesterol.

The eye test was similar to something you would have at an optician, and the hearing test was a fun game of chasing an increasingly quiet beep that by the end I think I was imagining.

My meeting with Dr Reem Hasan, Preventicum’s Medical Director, was one of the most reassuring conversations I’ve ever had in a medical setting.

Before arriving at the clinic, I completed a huge health questionnaire which Dr Hasan painstakingly went through.

It was thorough and informative, we went from top to bottom discussing any concerns I had, and now at the ripe old age of 39, I know how to check my breasts!

While I wasn’t due a smear test, I took the doctor up on her offer. Having had an abnormal result in the past, I’ve learnt you can never be too cautious in this department.

The testing for cancer is provided by Color who do genetic testing with easy to order, and straight-forward to use online kits. 

Once I got the hang of it I was able to provide enough saliva for a small pot that was then sent to the US for analysis.

Back at the clinic, it wasn’t just my physical health Dr Hasan was interested in, there was a real focus on my mental health which has been under pressure this year, like it has for most of the country.

Clients are given comfortable clothes to change into for the day and are escorted from appointment to appointment

Then specialist doctors and radiologists take patients through results step by step, with comparisons to abnormal MRI scans for reference

Next, it was onto the ultrasound examination.

I’ve had ultrasound examinations of my abdomen in the past, but this included a full check-up of my neck to check on my lymph nodes, complete with mood lighting and soft music.  

The clinic layout and the patient day is designed with privacy in mind and until I asked how many other clients were being seen that day I genuinely thought I was the only person there. 

I was escorted from appointment to appointment by everyone from the nurse who took my bloods to the radiologist who went through my MRI results.

Given my concerns over my blood pressure, the exercise ECG was the assessment I was most anxious about. Would it unearth something terrifying or give me a clean bill of health?

The exercise ECG shows whether your heart is getting enough blood during physical activity and can help identify if you have coronary heart disease.

With wires connecting me to a computer I jumped onto the treadmill with the incline and speed slowly increased until I was permitted to get off and rest, gasping for some cold water.

The exercise ECG shows whether your heart is getting enough blood during physical activity and can help identify if you have coronary heart disease

Despite the extra Covid measures, the clinic is still able to deliver a top-class personal experience

The MRI scan was an experience I wasn’t expecting. Having never had a need for such a procedure, I didn’t know how it worked.

I vaguely knew it involved lying down in an enclosed space, but I had no idea they were so loud! Thankfully the technology at Preventicum is state-of-the-art, and this particular MRI scanner had the option to watch a film.

What else could you want to distract you from the whirring and the inability to move a single muscle than Hugh Jackman and The Greatest Showman? 

Patients are taken through the results step-by-step, with comparison images of unhealthy organs for reference.

After having a good look at my brain and heart it was back to my private room for lunch. I had ordered from a tasty menu and was glad to finally get my hands on a cup of coffee.

I had expected the experience to be top-class and I wasn’t disappointed, but I underestimated the relief I would feel when the doctor revealed it wasn’t all bad news and those concerns over too much visceral fat from all that lockdown eating and not moving were somewhat unfounded.

Dr Hasan joined me in my room to confirm my blood pressure is elevated. Known as the ‘silent killer’, hypertension is a risk factor for cardiovascular and kidney disease.

Lack of exercise, being overweight, smoking and drinking, as well as high caffeine consumption can increase blood pressure, and unfortunately for me, it has a strong hereditary component. 

The good news is regular exercise can be as effective as medication in lowering blood pressure, so my post lockdown cycling is clearly a habit I need to keep up.

The MRI of my heart revealed mild left-ventricular hypertrophy which means there is enlargement and thickening of the walls of my heart’s main pumping chamber.

The clinic is part health setting, part fancy hotel and clients get their own personal room for the day

No surprises for guessing what can cause the left ventricle to work harder, and while the situation with my heart is mild I need to get on top of my blood pressure, keep my weight down and exercise.

My fitness levels look great, and my body composition wasn’t too bad at all, with my weight and body fat mass in normal range. 

The ultrasound found some uterine fibroids which I did know about it, and the MRI noted incidentally a small left-sided breast cyst.

The blood tests revealed low levels of total and bad cholesterol and a few weeks later the results of the genetic testing came back from Color confirming no mutations were identified.

I feel empowered. I know just because it’s fairly good news now doesn’t mean to say things won’t crop up in the future.

But what this does give me is a clean(ish) slate. I’ve got things to improve on but my quest to survive the pandemic and be around long enough to see my son live his life remains on track.

This year has taught us all to appreciate and look after our health, and what better way to do that than by fully understanding what that looks like.

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