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Published: 4 June 2024

Springing into action thanks to a routine health check

Farmer Ed surrounded by sheep.Ed Lovejoy, a sheep-farmer from Tenterden, felt in pretty good shape when he went along for his health check. He didn’t know his cholesterol was dangerously high.

Ed, a 41-year-old married father-of three said: “I thought there was nothing to worry about. I’m an active guy working on the farm, I don’t smoke and no one in my family has had any problems with heart attacks or strokes. I only went along for the health check because an adviser was at the cattle market I work at each week, there’s no way I would have gone along to the GP because I really thought there was no urgent rush.”

Working outdoors on his 900-acre farm, looking after more than 1,400 ewes and other animals, Ed felt fine. There were no signs he actually had dangerously high levels of cholesterol in his blood. Sarah Dimmock, NHS Health Check Adviser, was able to spend 30 minutes with Ed during a break from his lamb sorting duties at the market and complete a series of checks including blood pressure and cholesterol, alongside height and weight measurements.

Farmer Ed with health check adviser Sarah sitting on a hay bale with blood pressure measurement machine.Sarah said: “There’s a reason that high cholesterol levels are often called ‘the silent killer’ — there aren’t any signs or symptoms of the levels being too high until they have caused a problem. It can build up in artery walls and restrict the blood flow to your heart, brain and elsewhere in your body causing a heart attack or a stroke.”

Ed was found to have an extremely high level at 8.4 mmol/L and was referred to his GP for more tests. His GP confirmed he was at a high risk of having a heart attack in the next 12 months, which was a very worrying discovery. He said: “The GP thought it might be down to my diet. Living on a sheep farm and having a wife who’s a butcher meant there was always plenty of meat in our diet.”

Ed made some lifestyle changes alongside taking statins, a medication that helps to lower cholesterol. He started eating more fish, snacking on fruit and nuts, and cutting back on the amount of alcohol he drinks every week. This has led to him losing more than two-and-a-half-stone and his cholesterol halving from 8.4 to 4.2 mmol/L, which is within the healthy range.

Ed said: “I’m so pleased I got that check. It was so quick and easy without the need to book an appointment. I wouldn’t have got around to going to my
GP, having someone where I was working was great, it’s a really good service.”

Health checks are available for people who are aged 40 to 74 from their GP or from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Health Checks
Team. Visit or call 0300 123 1220 for more information.