How was your week? Did you have four scans, two samples, an ECG, a health questionnaire and a cognitive test all on the same day?

One day this week, I had no less than four scans. These were:

Brain MRI scan. This provides information about the structure and function of the brain; for example which parts of the brain are important for carrying out certain tasks and how different parts of the brain are connected.

Heart and body MRI scan. This provides information on the size of the heart chambers and blood vessels, and changes in the size of the heart as it beats. It also provides detailed information on the amount and distribution of fat in the body.

Neck artery ultrasound scan. This uses ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) to produce images of the blood vessels on either side of the neck. These images help scientists study any narrowing of these major blood vessels.

Dual-Energy x-ray Absorptiometry (DXA) scan. This uses low-energy X-rays to measure bone density throughout the body. Detailed pictures of the spine, hips and knees help scientists to study diseases like osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and arthritis.

As well as these four scans, I had physical measures, physical tests, and an electrocardiogram (ECG), gave blood and urine, samples, completed a long questionnaire on health and lifestyle, and took a series of cognitive tests. The whole process took almost five hours.

What’s going on, I hear your say. Its all part of a huge, longitudinal health study called Biobank. I joined this study – which has around 500,000 participants – about 10 years ago and, for time to to time, I complete online questionnaires and take part in trials and tests. The imaging assessment study in which I participated this week will eventually encompass some 100,000 people.

It’s all voluntary, but UK Biobank is helping scientists from all the around the world to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of diseases. The main sub study in which I am a participant is looking at the health risks associated with dementia.

I’m grateful for the health I have and pleased to be able to make a small contribution to giving others better life prospects.


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