Alzheimer’s Disease: hindering the onset of the condition

Many thoughts cross our mind when we think about ageing. When it comes to mental health, we are increasingly aware of the impact of Alzheimer’s disease for the patient and for his/hers carers. Uncertainty makes us wonder what causes the disease and how can we prevent it.

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Understanding Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults, as explained by the National Institute of Agingfrom U.S.A.. This is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks like driving a car, cooking a meal, or paying bills. Usually people who suffer from the condition ask the same questions over and over, get lost easily, lose things or put them in odd places, and find simple things utterly confusing. In some cases, they become worried, angry, or violent, as the disease progresses.

According to the Alzheimer’s Associationfrom U.S.A., individuals with Alzheimer’s dementia experience multiple symptoms that change over a period of years, and reflect the degree of damage to neurons in different parts of the brain. Early symptoms include difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events, apathy and depression. Later symptoms vary between impaired communication; disorientation, confusion; poor judgment; behavioural changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking. Alzheimer’s disease is ultimately fatal.

Is prevention in our hands?

 Genetic is a crucial risk factor for late-onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and until now, no lifestyle factor has shown to reduce the risk of developing the condition; however, according to the Mayo Clinicwebsite, some changes in our behaviour can help.

Evidence suggests that the same factors that place us at risk of heart disease may also increase our chances of developing Alzheimer’s.

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Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.

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Uncontrolledvascular risk factors, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Having diabetes can be also considered a risk.

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Refraining from physical activity.

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Not pursuing a heart-healthy diet containing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, chicken, nuts and vegetables, while limiting saturated fats, red meat and sugar.

 

Additional studies also pointed out that having a mentally stimulating job, engaging in mentally stimulating activities and exercising the brain throughout life may have a positive influence on the disease’s onset. Remaining socially active may too support your brain’s health and possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

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Formal education and thinking (cognitive) skills, such as memory.

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Mentally stimulating job.

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Socially engagement.

Ask for professional help

If you wish to undergo diagnosis or treatment or if you are a carer of someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you may contact us and get more information about our services. Finding an expert in the field may not be an easy task, especially if we are in foreign country and facing a new language. Medical Port provides the access to the most appropriate specialists, arranging English-speaking staff able to understand and answer your needs and concerns.

 

 

Stroke: stay safe and act fast

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15 million people worldwide are affected by stroke each year. Of these, 5 million die and a similar number become permanently disabled. A stroke can seriously damage the brain, reducing functionality and quality of life permanently, so it is important to understand and learn how to avoid it.

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How a stroke develops in our bodies

As explained by the WHO, our brain can only function if adequately irrigated by blood. Two large blood vessels, running along either side of the neck, carry blood from the heart to the brain. Arriving at the brain, these in turn narrow gradually until becoming tiny tubular passages supplying oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the brain. When this flow of blood is significantly reduced or even interrupted; the brain loses its ability to nourish and function, becoming seriously damaged.

Effects of this condition depend on which part of the brain is affected and how severe the damage is. A stroke may affect just one part of the body, such as the face, an arm or a leg. In other situations, it can completely paralyse important bodily functions.

When it develops into it’s most dangerous outcome, it is called a major stroke. A very severe stroke can cause sudden death. To realize if someone is having a stroke, it is important to observe the symptoms. The most common one is a sudden weakness of the face, arm or leg, most often on one side of the body. Other symptoms may occur, including sudden onset, numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion; difficulty speaking or understanding speech; difficulty seeing with one or both eyes; difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; severe headache with no known cause; fainting or unconsciousness.

Symptoms of a minor stroke may be similar to those of major strokes, but milder and of shorter duration, even less than an hour. In such cases, the person recovers without treatment.

ACT FAST

Strokes can strike suddenly and be fatal if assistance is immediate. When detecting signs of stroke it is urgent to call a doctor or ambulance. A stroke can progress fast so it is imperative to take action even if the symptoms don’t appear severe. Think “FAST” and pay attention to the following symptoms:

Barry Langdon-Lassagne CC 3.0                                 Face.Ask the person to smile. Observe the lips are uneven.

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                              Arms.Ask the person to raise both arms. Is one arm drifting downwards or unable to rise?

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                             Speech.Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Notice if the speech is slurred or strange.

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                           Time.If you detect any of these signs, call an ambulance immediately.

 

Stay safe

Pursuing healthy life habits daily can save lives, especially if we stick to the following advice:

CigaretteIf you’re a smoker, quit. The risk of stroke drops immediately after a person quit using tobacco products, and can be reduced by as much as half after 1 year. Every way of smoking is harmful, being it in cigarettes, cigars, pipe smoking, tobacco chewing, and even second-hand tobacco smoke.

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Adopt a healthy diet. Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and two servings of oily fish a week. Avoid unhealthy meals with too much food, calories, fat, sugar or salt.

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Limit alcohol. We may not entirely quit alcohol, but we it is important to learn how to be moderate: a man should not drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day and women not more than one.

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Practise physical activity. Exercise lowers the risk of stroke for many reasons.. It helps the body to burn sugars and fats and to keep a proper weight; lowers blood pressure; increases oxygen levels in your body; reduces stress; strengthens the heart muscle and bones, and improves blood circulation and muscle tone.

Check yourself regularly

Prevention includes regularly visiting our physician and being aware of our overall health. If you are living in Portugal and need medical assistance with English-speaking staff, you may contact us and we will support you with local arrangements according to your condition and availability.

 

 

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!

New trends increasing childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the current century. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016, the number of overweight children under the age of 5 worldwide, is estimated to be over 41 million. Almost half of all overweight children under this age lived in Asia and one quarter lived in Africa.

Societal trends and food marketing are the guilty ones

WHO recognized that the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity results from changes in society. These comprise social and economic development and policies in the areas of agriculture, transport, urban planning, the environment, food processing, distribution and marketing, as well as education.

As stated by Childhood Obesity Foundation, “societal trends have dramatically altered the nature of play and the way children interact with their environment”. Nowadays, they are exposed to marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages high in fat, sugar and/or sodium. A study made by WHO adds that “researchers examining food brand websites have found that child-oriented webpages frequently promote unhealthy products with dynamic, engaging, persuasive techniques”. A lack of access to physical activity opportunities and a sedentary “screen time” habit are also contributors to this scenario.

Prevention through a healthy diet

A healthy diet is crucial to prevent malnutrition in all forms as well as a range of noncommunicable diseases and conditions. There isn’t a unique formula to everyone since each individual has his own needs, there are nevertheless basic principles to follow (according to Eatwell Guide):

– Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day;- Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, choosing wholegrain versions where possible;

– Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options;

– Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily);

– Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts;

– Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of fluid a day;

– If consuming foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar have these less often and in small amounts.

 

In case of infants, WHO adds:

– They should be breastfed exclusively during the first 6 months of life.

–  From 6 months of age, breast milk should be complemented with a variety of adequate, safe and nutrient dense complementary foods. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods.

 

Keep your child healthy

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

World Hepatitis Day 2017

Hepatitis is a liver inflammation caused by a virus. Since 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) brings awareness to this disease every 28th of July. The motto for this year is: “to eliminate hepatitis.”

Image Credits: World Health Organization

There are five hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D and E. Treating hepatitis can be a simple process (or it can be untreatable), depending on the type of hepatitis, its stage of development and the damage already done to the liver. In the worst case scenarios, acute or chronic hepatitis can lead to more serious problems such as cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.

According to a report from the WHO, viruses B and C are responsible for 96% of hepatitis-related deaths. In 2015, there were nearly 325 million cases of hepatitis worldwide, but treatment only reaches a small percentage of individuals, especially in low income countries. In the same year, hepatitis caused the death of 1.3 million people.

Hepatitis viruses have different incubation periods and show no symptoms for long periods of time, but a simple blood test can detect the virus. Learn more about the virus and how they can spread.

Prevention is the key, so check your health regularly. Contact Medical Port if you want to arrange a medical check-up during a visit to Portugal! 

 

Read more: http://www.who.int/campaigns/hepatitis-day/2017/en/