Water: the most valuable substance of all

One can endure only a few days without water. Although very often forgotten, providing the body with the fluids it needs is vital to life itself and to proper performance.

 

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The value of hydration

Water represents 75% of body weight in infants and 55% in elderly, being essential for cellular homeostasis and life. Staying hydrated is crucial to the body’s ability to control temperature.

Adults are recommended to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, although it also depends on the person and each individual’s characteristics, including their diet, gender (since men generally sweat more than women), and body size (larger people are more prone to sweating than thinner people). Environmental conditions are also an influencing factor: the higher is the temperature, the higher is the risk of dehydrating.

The intensity of exercise and its duration affects as well the loss of fluid. Those who enjoy physical activity should drink before, during and after exercise. Dehydration can occur in every physical activity setting, even if the temperature is not high. Well-trained athletes need to be even extra-cautious. Their bodies are used to additional stress and perspire much more than less fit people, so they are able to stay cool more efficiently than most us.

Dehydration: know the signs

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we should be aware of a few signs of dehydration.

First, the colour of the morning’s first urine is an overall indicator of hydration status.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 14.43.45  Straw or lemonade coloured urine is a sign of appropriate hydration.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 14.55.38 Bright urine often is produced soon after consuming vitamin supplements.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 14.56.16 Dark coloured urine, the colour of apple juice, indicates dehydration.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 14.56.59Colourless urine means overhydration (happens when the body takes in or holds on to more fluid than the kidneys can remove).

Also, early signs of dehydration are thirst, flushed skin, premature fatigue, increased body temperature, faster breathing and pulse rate, increased perception of effort and decreased exercise capacity.

Later signs include dizziness, increased weakness and laboured breathing with exercise.

Don’t wait to feel thirsty

For some of us, the practice of drinking water regularly can be a tedious task and is often forgotten. Oblivious to the fact that we are not taking the necessary amount of water, symptoms of dehydration may appear.

To make drinking water a habit is extremely important. Having a glass with water at the same time each day could facilitate the adoption of the routine. You may also carry a bottle of water on the morning commute or keep a cup of water on the desk. Waiting for thirst to replenish your body’s water levels may not be the best strategy: by the time you become thirsty, you have already lost two or more cups of water from your physical structure.

 

 

Mindful Eating: a new commitment to food

Nowadays, we are always rushing into something or somewhere. When it is time to pause for having a meal, our brain keeps connected to everything around us: we constantly check our phones, we are absorbed by social media news, and stressed by work and life issues. Amidst such turbulence, how can we be aware of the compromises made in our relationship with food?

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Inverting old and bad eating habits

Cultural, economic and marketing practices affect the way we buy and use food. Labour, leisure, preferences and lifestyle changes have made us increasingly sedentary also jeopardizing our eating habits. In the hope of contradicting these paths, many new diets have emerged, offering a range of ways to lose weight and improve our health. All these new solutions are nonetheless focused on cutting and adding nutrients to our meals, forgetting an essential part of the process: our eating behaviour.

Mindful eating cuts across this boom of trendy diets to alert us that healthy eating also included rethinking our eating habits and our relationship with food. This bond with what we eat derives from the awareness taste, smell, colour and texture of food. According to the Centre for Mindful Eating, “pausing and becoming curious focuses the mind. Mindful Eating cultivates becoming grounded in the present moment’s awareness of eating.”

This complete awareness helps us to focus or thoughts and feelings in those physical sensations related to eating, and to identify the true origin of hunger – whether if it is a physical hunger or if it is a consequence of an emotional cause.

Mindful Eating has been helpful in treating many conditions, including eating disorders – like binge eating -, depression or anxiety, and addressing various erroneous food-related behaviours.

How to practise Mindful Eating

Practising Mindful Eating may not be an easy task since it usually contradicts our normal eating habits, simultaneously demanding total concentration. According to the Harvard Health Publishing, there are a few steps that can help us improve our Mindful Eating.

First, the shopping list. We should consider the health value of every item added, preventing us from impulse buying at the supermarket. A second step is discipline.  We should avoid skipping meals and thus prevent seating at the table with excessive hunger. Meals should be taken with an appetite but in appropriate portions.

The third step involves the essence of Mindful Eating. “Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.

Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to colour, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings” as advised by Harvard Health Publishing.

The following steps involve taste and chewing. It’s easier to taste food completely when our mouth isn’t full. So taking small bites and putting down utensils between bites could help. Chewing thoroughly and eating slowly are other techniques that improve our experience in tasting all the flavours that are released.

Final advice: “Devote at least five minutes to Mindful Eating before you chat with your tablemates.”

Lifetime consequences of a stunning tan

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In our minds, we always link summer to images of paradisiac beaches with tanned bodies composing such idyllic scenes. As the bathing season starts, we concern ourselves with getting that right golden brown tone. But how much do we worry about maintaining a healthy, young skin?

High temperatures, higher risks

Behind the sunny weather that warms up our vacations, numbers speak out loudly: according to the World Health Organization, nowadays, 2 to 3 million non-melanoma and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year. One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer. In the U.S., where the tanning trend is blatant, one in five will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, as stated by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Even as prevention of skin cancer is acknowledged by the population at large, there are many good practices still to nourish. Excessive exposure to the sun is well known as the biggest cause for sunburns – what is not so obvious is that neither shade nor sunscreen alone can completely prevent it from happening. In 2017, JAMA Dermatology showed that 78 % of participants in a “shade” group got sunburned after a 3½-hour period, while only 25 % of those wearing sunscreen did.

For those who enjoy their vacations at the mountains rather than the beach, prevention shouldn’t be less reinforced: according to the Skin Care Foundation, levels of ultraviolet radiation increase by up to 24 % for each 1,000-meter increase in altitude.

Medication is also another troubling issue: some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antibiotics, can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

Tanning beds myths

On one hand, we already know that the sun can be dangerous – even if we can’t fully grasp how much. On the other, there is a growing belief that tanning beds are beneficial to our health.

Many even think that this procedure fulfils the same purpose as light boxes used to treat psoriasis and other skin conditions. However, machines used in tanning salons are nothing like the light boxes we find today in doctors’ offices.”

Also, there is the widespread idea that tanning beds improve our vitamin D levels. Few of us know that tanning beds emit UVA rays, instead of UVB, the ones that actually interact with the protein in the skin that converts solar rays into vitamin D.

One study observing 63 women diagnosed with melanoma before age 30 found that 61 of them (97 %) had used tanning beds. As dermatologists highlight constantly regarding the dangerous consequences of tanning beds: one visit to the tanning salon significantly increases your chances of a cancer that can kill you.

The right formula for a young skin

For those who cannot do without a brown skin in the summer, the American Academy of Dermatology advises to apply self-tanner rather than get a tan. “Every time you get a tan, you prematurely age your skin.”

Expensive anti-ageing procedures and products sold as formulas to keep our looks fresh and young are not effective in preventing the ageing of the skin. Instead, sunscreen and similar ways of protection must be used regularly to keep your skin young.

Protect yourself: check regularly 

Use as many types of sun protection as you can, in combination, including clothing, hats, sunglasses and getting out of the sun – which is the best prevention you can accomplish.

Skin cancer prevention also includes being aware of changes in the skin, particularly those that look odd. A physician should promptly assess any new lesion or a progressive change in a lesion’s appearance (as size, shape, or colour).

Medical Port provides access to care in the fields of Dermatology and Oncology with English-speaking staff in Portugal. Please contact us if you want to undergo a medical consultation in order to check your skin. Stay safe this summer!

World Parkinson’s Disease Day

 

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a long-term progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops when cells in a particular part of the brain stop working properly and are lost over the time. These brain cells produce dopamine which is used by the brain to control movement.

Young adults rarely experience Parkinson’s disease. It ordinarily begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older and men are 1.5 times more likely to have it than women.

Parkinson’s disease symptoms and signs can vary from person to person and may include:

  • Tremor, an uncontrollable movement that affects a part of the body, for example, the hand;
  • Rigidity, meaning stiff or inflexible muscle;
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia), reducing the ability to move and slow the movement’s patient and making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming;
  • Pain which can be a major issue for some people with Parkinson’s and can be felt in different ways. The musculoskeletal pain is the most common type of pain that people with Parkinson’s experience. It is usually felt as an ache around the joints, arms or legs;
  • Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, a condition that causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs;
  • Fatigue, experienced by up to half of people with Parkinson’s and may be one of the earliest symptoms;
  • Sleep and night-time problems that can affect the patient at any stage of the condition;
  • Speech and Communication issues which affect facial expressions, writing and verbal communication in people with Parkinson’s.

Although Parkinson’s Disease has no cure, there are treatments and therapies that can help the patient to control the symptoms such as:

  • Drug treatment, the main method used to control the PD symptoms. This treatment aims to increase the level of dopamine that reaches the brain and stimulate the parts of the brain where dopamine works;
  • Surgery, mainly used to treat people whose Parkinson’s symptoms can’t be controlled by medication;
  • Physiotherapy which can help PD patients having problems with everyday movements, such as walking or getting in and out of a chair or bed;
  • Occupational therapy that aims to help patients to execute everyday tasks when they become difficult to do.

If you need to undergo diagnosis or treatment, or you are a PD caregiver you may contact us and get more information about the Parkinson’s Intensive Learning Camp and individual therapeutic programmes for PD patients of the Campus Neurológico Sénior located in the centre of Portugal.

 

Source: Parkinson’s Foundation and Parkinson’s UK.

The importance of sleep for a healthy life

Contemporary society versus sleep

The benefits of a good night sleep are well known nowadays. However, in the World Sleep Day – celebrated every 16th March -, specialists keep reminding us how our routines are contradicting this knowledge and harming our health, in many cases without realizing it.

The pressure of work and the aim to fulfil the demands of the labour market are making people changing their priorities, placing the sleep time at the bottom. In fact, this behaviour causes diurnal fatigue, concentration problems and symptoms of anxiety, irritability and excessive diurnal somnolence, seriously prejudicing our performance. According to the Portuguese Sleep Society, sleep deprivation affects the memory, synthesis formation, hormones’ release, weakening the immune system and generating several other diseases.

How to get a better sleep

There are some easy and effective tips to help you to get a quiet night:

Adopt the habit of going to bed and wake up always at the same hour. The sun is a sort of time clock that regulates the balance between the environment and the human body’s rhythm. Normally, the human’s endogenous rhythm prepares the body to wake up at 6 am producing cortisol (the hormone responsible for activity and movement), and releases melatonin (the hormone responsible for sleep) at 9 pm, reaching its peak roughly at 12pm.

 

 

Avoid intellectual work (especially if it requires computer’s usage) at night and write a to-do-list instead. According to some surveys, this task will help you to ‘offload’ anxious thoughts and reduce your concerns.

 

 

Turn off smartphones, televisions, and tablets before you go to bed. The blue light issued by these devices suppresses melatonin’s release which affects our sleep and can cause insomnia.

 

 

Soothing infusions like chamomile, tilia, valerian and lavender help the body to relax and have a better sleep night. Coffee, soda, and guarana are the forbidden drinks during the evening.

 

 

Sometimes the origin of lack of sleep is anatomic or psychological. In these cases, a consultation with a specialist is essential to identify and tackle the problem. Medical Port can help you to find the right specialist and to guide you while in Portugal.

World Cancer Day 2018

What do specialists say? Healthy daily habits and screening are the main keys to cancer prevention.

There were an estimated 14.1 million cancer cases around the world in 2012, a number that is expected to grow to 24 million by 2035, according to World Cancer Research Fund International. To combat this disease and following guidelines from health institutions and specialists across the globe, many people in developed countries are changing their habits.

The adoption of a healthy lifestyle can reduce up to one-third of cancer cases, decreasing related fatality rates. Overweight and smoking are pointed out as strong risk factors, with the last being responsible for 90% of lung cancer cases in the world. A diet low in fruit and vegetables, alcohol use and lack of physical activity are also behavioural contributors to mortality associated with cancer.

Diagnose in advance

Screening, combined with a healthy lifestyle, is essential for cancer prevention and treatment. Early mammography screening contributes to reducing breast cancer mortality. For women aged 50 years or old, screening is a vital procedure to detect advanced cancer cases. Even though many people are aware of the importance of breast and cervical cancer screenings, there isn´t the same concern with other forms such as colorectal cancer, in which mortality is still very high.

Screening can be effective in selected cancer types when appropriate tests are used, implemented effectively, and linked to other steps in the care process. Many cancers have a high chance of cure if diagnosed early and treated adequately.

A healthy routine to combat cancer

There is a growing number of people worried about cancer, who nowadays has access to a great amount of information. Aiming to promote a longer and healthier life, informed and concerned individuals are scrutinizing and adapting their diets for the sake of protection. It is already known that adopting specific habits in our daily routine can reduce the risk of a great number of conditions, cancer included. Regarding the World Cancer Day, celebrated every year on February 4th, the World Health Organization recalled the following effective tips for cancer prevention.

 

If you need to undergo diagnosis or treatment, you may contact us and we will make all local arrangements according to your condition and availability, ensuring that you undergo care in distinctive centres in Portugal, with medical experts and multidisciplinary teams.

World Diabetes Day 2017

422 million adults worldwide have diabetes. The prevalence of this condition is rising at a faster pace than before particularly among low and middle income countries.

There are different types of diabetes. Only type 1 is not preventable. In all cases, the consequences might be severe: vision loss, kidney failure, increased risk of heart attack and stroke and even lower limb amputation.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and what causes it it’s still not known. In this case, the body does not produce sufficient insulin and requires a daily intake of insulin to compensate.

Type 2 diabetes happens when the body produces sufficient insulin but doesn’t manage to use it well. It used to happen only in adults but lately can be found in children as well.This is the most common type and is normally associated with being overweight and conducting a sedentary lifestyle. Therefore, diabetes type 2 can be prevented or delayed with a healthier lifestyle.

Gestational diabetes is temporary a condition that occurs during pregnancy and is characterized by hyperglycaemia. It represented and increased risk during pregnancy and delivery and can lead to diabetes type 2 in the children in the future.

Prevention is in your hands

Leading a healthy lifestyle and not smoking are important steps to prevent diabetes type 2. Additionally, only 30 minutes of physical activity per day can make a difference and help you to keep a healthy body weight.

Book a consultation with a nutritionist if you are looking for help to live a healthier and more active lifestyle!

 

The future of health at the Web Summit

Medical Port visited the tech conference that brought people from all over the world to Lisbon. The future of health was among the topics discussed at the Web Summit.

From alternative therapies to wearables, transplants and hybrid humans: a broad range of topics were discussed at the Web Summit.

The possibility of ever achieving a disease-free world was debated, but the opinion was clear: the majority of the attendees agreed it is quite utopic to ever achieve of such thing, despite the great advances of science.

Longevity was also discussed: could 125 be the new 80 in the future? Maybe, according to Gabriel Otte, who runs an enterprise working on disease prevention. Unfortunately, not all can be controlled by us, as the key seems to lie on a combination of genetics and lifestyle effects. However, Gabriel Otte recommends us to be as proactive about out general health as most people are with their teeth – checking it regularly and focusing on prevention.

Medical Port can help you keeping up your health and taking preventive steps during your stay in Portugal. Contact us for more information!

October: Breast cancer awareness month

Many countries mark October as the Breast Cancer Awareness month, with the aim to disseminate more information about the leading cancer among women, as well as promote an early detection.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Some risk factors have been identified but there are no specific causes leading to this condition. Many higher income countries have implemented cancer screening programs as early detection is still the main way to increase the survival chance.

The incidence of breast cancer is nearly 90 cases  per 100 000 people in Western Europe, while in most developing regions is below 40/100 000. Therefore, breast cancer is seen as a disease affecting mainly higher income countries – which is true – however, rates among lower-income countries are increasing at a faster pace, as life expectancy increases as well in such regions. The survival rates also vary according to different regions in the world. In North America is 80% or higher, while in low-income countries is below 40%, mostly due to late detection.

Identified risks

Genetics, woman’s reproductive timing and some lifestyle choices can increase the chances of developing breast cancer. For instance, a familial history of breast cancer is a sign to pay attention to; reproductive factors like an early menarche, late menopause, late age of first childbirth and exposure to endogenous estrogens are also important risk factors. Alcohol use, obesity, overweight and physical inactivity can be the reason for around 20% or breast cancer cases, according to a study from 2005.

Prevention

Breast self exams and clinical breast examination can provide some preliminary leads but the most effective way to detect breast cancer is by doing a mammography. Normally, women without risk factors should start doing the mammography exam after turning 35, each 18 months until the menopause. After the menopause the periodicity should be every 2 years.

Contact Medical Port if you are living in Portugal and don’t know where to go to do a mammography. For a thorough analyisis on women’s health, we also provide a gynaecological check-up.

 

Source: World Health Organization

Health R&D: Portugal among the best

A recent report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) places Portugal on the 8th place in the ranking of countries with highest percentage of GDP spent on Health and medical science research and development (R&D).

Champalimaud Foundation

The report claims that Health R&D ensures the availability of appropriate health technologies, which is crucial for the protection and promotion of health. A few examples of portuguese expertise:

  1. The most influential pathologist in the world

In 2015, portuguese Manuel Sobrinho Simões was considered the most influential pathologist in the world. You can read more here.

  1. Champalimaud Foundation

The Champalimaud Foundation is a worldwide reference for oncology. It counts on experts and researchers coming from all over the world. In 2012, the Centre was named the best place worldwide (outside the USA) to do postdoctoral work, by the international journal, The Scientist. One the of the branches of the Foundation, the Center fort he Unknown is directed by Professor Zvi Fuks, a precursor of innovative radiotherapy tecnhiques like the Single Dose Image Guided Radiotherapy (SD-IGRT).   Click to learn more about Champalimaud Foundation.

  1. Internationally awarded researchers (only a few among many!)

  • João Gonçalves got the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation Award to develop a new HIV therapy
  • Ester Coutinho was awarded by the British Academy of Medical Sciences for her work on neurodevelopment in children;
  • Rita Guerreiro won the Fondazione Gino Galletti Neuroscience Prize 2015, which praised her work related to Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Miguel Seabra is Seeds of Science awardee, for his work on one of the types of blindness.

Portugal offers a welcoming and highly professional environment for your medical experience abroad. Contact us via email info@medicalport.org or call us on +351 211 379 718 if you are looking for medical treatments abroad and learn how we can help you to reach the best hospitals and clinics.

Sources: WHO – World Health Statistics