With more ways than ever to take responsibility for our own health, is this a lifestyle change we should all be making – or a fad best forgotten? Will you be embracing the home health test trend?
Another day, another message about taking responsibility for your own health. Get out the blood pressure monitor, pop into Boots for a home test kit before you bother the GP, get a health check free with your gym membership… the list goes on.
But where should we draw the line between taking responsibility for our own health and wading in without adequate tools and understanding?
Home testing on test
We’ve just tested ten blood pressure monitors available on the high street and found four – all wrist monitors – that we can’t recommend as they scored so low for accuracy, although we also found three top-scoring Best Buys.
And our research into private health MOTs last year found that the risks involved weren’t always explained clearly enough. By risks, I mean factors such as:
- Tests offering false reassurance (i.e. failing to detect a problem).
- Tests picking up on a potential problem that causes you to worry but turns out to be nothing (tests such as blood tests aren’t designed to be done on people without symptoms, for example).
- The test itself causing harm. For example, an independent government committee has recommended that companies stop full-body CT scanning immediately. It believes the harm (from radiation) outweighs the benefit – yet these are still on sale.
But on the other hand, isn’t it better to be in control of your own health? After all, most of us wouldn’t rely on home testing alone to tell us if we’re ill.
If you buy a dodgy blood pressure monitor, won’t you soon find out if you continue to have check-ups at the local surgery? And surely if you continue to be worried about your bowels, you’ll do something other than a home test?
The sceptic in me says this is a market that’s growing faster than our understanding of it. But then, maybe my worries are just a hangover from the days of ‘doctor knows best’?