AN NHS check-up that could stop hundreds of thousands developing dementia is only taken up by half of those eligible for it, say health chiefs.
Available free to all aged 40 and over, the 20-minute checks flag up the chances of getting heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes.
Someone who has a stroke or develops diabetes or heart disease is twice as likely to get dementia, described as the top current heath crisis.
Jamie Waterall, of Public Health England, said: “The health check looks at the top causes of premature death and ill health.
“More importantly it supports people to take action to reduce their risk of preventable conditions such as dementia and heart disease.”
Of the 15 million who could have had the checks over the last five years fewer than 50% did.
Everyone between 40 and 74 with no pre-existing health conditions is invited for a health check every five years.
Alistair Burns, of NHS England, said: “Attending a free NHS health check is a great opportunity to discuss existing conditions.” Patients will be given advice on healthy lifestyles. For every 2% fall in the number having strokes or heart problems there are about 10,000 fewer dementia cases, the NHS said.
In October Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes warned Britain was heading for trouble.
He said: “With the care system leaving families in financial ruin and the public largely oblivious, we are sleepwalking into a crisis.
“The Government must guarantee everyone with dementia access to care they need and deserve.”
There are now 850,000 people living with dementia that slowly strips people of their memories and identities.
The condition, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form, costs the UK £26.3billion a year.
Dr Laura Phipps, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Health checks can help highlight lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of conditions like dementia. There is good evidence to suggest what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.”
Experts say midlife is a critical time to take action to help maintain a healthy brain into old age life.