Scientists say they can now predict our medical destiny.

They can tell us what hideous diseases we're likely to get and even how and roughly when we'll die.

There are even TV programmes dedicated to the subject.

Channel 4's Turn Back Your Body Clock sees Dr Una Coales put lardy, couch potatoes and hedonists through more tests than a lab rat before looking down her nose and smugly telling them they have ten years left to live.

Said fatty/hedonist is then chained to a treadmill and made to eat beansprouts for the next eight weeks and, hey presto, when they return to the studio, Dr Una tells then they'll live forever.

Personally, I don't want to know when I going to die, which is why my health MOT will be a little less invasive than Dr Una's regime.

At 29, I can't imagine I've got that much to worry about, so I confidently plump for a £460 Full Health Assessment with the Sussex Nuffield Hospital.

Before we start, I'll confess I am a part-time hypochondriac.

I'm not obsessed with illness, it's just my life seems, well, a little boring without a potentially fatal disease to contend with.

Over the years, I have been poked and prodded by doctors investigating headaches, twitches and palpitations.

My friend, who works for the NHS, says doctors at his primary care trust (not Brighton and Hove) have a name for people like me heart sink patients.

It's because every time we walk through the surgery door their hearts sink.

Very funny. But I would like to point out, I don't actually bother my GP that much my chosen illness and I fester in silence, making sure we're not wasting NHS funds.

The problem is, most people who have niggling worries but no medical symptoms often feel embarrassed and unable to bother their doctor.

Clare Pirie, the spokesperson for Brighton and Hove NHS Trust, says GPs who have an average of 2,000 patients and ten-minute time slots would be unlikely to do tests on healthy patients.

"If people are in an age group where they are at higher risk, or if they have particular medical conditions, it would be appropriate to talk to their GP about tests,"she says.

"For people who feel healthy but want a check-up, they could ask to see the practice nurse who would take their blood pressure, height and weight and talk to them about things they can do to improve their own health, such as stopping smoking, taking more exercise and improving their diet.

"A doctor probably wouldn't do invasive tests like taking blood unless there was a medical reason."

However, this year, the Government announced plans to offer health checks at several key points in everyone's life something welcomed by Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK and hypochondriacs across the land.

But I'm not waiting around for that.

So I set off for my MOT unfazed by the fact an investigation by Which? in 2004 concluded that private health-screening offered poor value for money and could cause unnecessary anxiety.

The first thing I notice as I sit in the sunshine-filled waiting room at Nuffield Hospital in Woodingdean is that the magazines are all new.

No dog-eared December 2003 copy of Bella for us private patients, but current issues of all the glossies.

After quickly filling in a 12-page questionnaire which I was supposed to complete before arrival, I'm whisked into a side room where a nurse takes syringefulls of blood.

Next is breakfast. After a night of fasting, I'm starving and a selection of breakfast cereals, toast and a cafetiere, not that awful instant stuff, are wheeled out for my pleasure.

Next, I'm weighed and measured and I'm pleased to discover I'm half an inch taller than I thought I was.

Next come the fun tests sight, hearing and lungs.

I stare into a something which looks like it belongs on Star Wars (the Eighties' trilogy, not the new ones)and try to decipher increasingly tiny letters and flashing lights to test my peripheral vision.

The hearing test will settle a long-standing argument.

According to my boyfriend, I'm deaf. According to me, he speaks in a frequency so high and quiet only dogs can hear it.

But the lung function test is my favourite, becauseI'm good at it.

In fact, not just good but "excellent".

Yes, as well as being a borderlinehypochondriac, another of my most attractive qualities is competitiveness.

Next I have an ECG, which I expect will show some skipped beats and it does.

I used to think palpitations were for the elderly and over-excited, but after recent attacks over the past year, I now know differently.

Next comes the part which is a hypochondriac's wet dream a lengthy one-on-one with a doctor.

For some, spitting out endless medical complaints in a ten-minute slot at your GPs can prove to be near impossible but here you have all the time in the world well, a full hour.

A lovely lady doctor takes the time to talk through the questonnaire I filled out earlier.

We talk at length about my physical and emotional wellbeing.

Many facets of my exciting life are covered relationships, sex, drinking, smoking, diet, job,mental health and family history.

And it is at this point I am told that the kind of brain aneurysm which killed my mum is in fact hereditary.

This usually would have been a heart-sink moment for me, never mind the doctor, but I'm reassured that a scan I had at 18 to check out headaches would have picked up on any problems.

Although, there's still my sister to worry about.

Over the next hour, we cover the minutiae of my medical history, from a dislocated knee at the age of 15 to my palpitations, which she reassures me are caused by extra beats in my heart which are in turn probably caused by stress.

My blood pressure is taken and is a perky 119/78, my pulse is average at 88 beats per minute and my eyes, ears, throat, reflexes, posture, pelvis and abdomen are given the once-over.

I leave happy as a proverbial pig.

Several weeks later, I receive my personal report, the summary of which starts, "I find your general health to be excellent."


Most importantly, my hearing is tip-top, which proves I am right and my boyfriend does not speak but whispers.

My blood, which has been tested for everything under the sun, is fine and so is my cholesterol.

My action plan suggests I learn to calm down I scored highly on the anxiety test and the doctor gives me some suggested bedtime reading a book by Dr Alan Carr on coping with anxiety.

Worryingly, the results of my ECG are not through. Several weeks later, I receive a sombre-toned letter informing me that while my ECG was on the whole normal, there were some skipped beats which should be checked out by a cardiologist.

The thing is this problem has already been checked out.

After spending 24 hours trying to conceal a cumbersome heart monitor under my top last year, I was told my problem was benign and exacerbated by stress and fatigue.

But I make a quick call to the Nuffield's health screening doctor, Dr Joan Bodkin, to discuss this result.

While she tells me that to all intents and purposes I have been fully investigated, it would be best to get it checked out again if I still have symptoms I do.

She explains my heart is sending out extra impulses, which shouldn't be a problem unless I start to feel faint and dizzy.

I convince myself I feel faint and dizzy.

"They (palpitations) can be terribly unpleasant and in general there isn't a problem," she says.

"They are extremely common and most people get them at some time or another. Mostly they are benign and innocent but they can be an indicator of something more seriously wrong with the heart."

Thinking it's better to be safe than sorry, I pack myself off to my friendly GP to discuss the letter.

As I walk in she says to me, "I've just been looking through your notes."

No doubt another heart-sink moment.

  • Lisa Frascarelli had her health check at The Sussex Nuffield Hospital in Woodingdean, Brighton.
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