The blues in the spring

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Spring is the well-known season for the reappearance of sunnier days, happier moments and a better mood. So it is the time when flowers start to bloom and nature welcomes new species. A scenario of this character is delightful for many individuals but there’s a significant number of people who dramatically suffer from this climate change.

Anxiety and depression have sprung

In fact, at this time of year, the rates of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and suicide are greater.

Interestingly, there’s a phenomenon called summertime depression, which means people start to get sad when spring arrives. There are also people suffering from seasonal affective disorder who see their symptoms go downhill with warmer temperatures and brighter days – even if this disorder is typically associated with winter.

Social events in this season may not help: “seeing cheery people all around you is a constant reminder that others are having a good time when you aren’t”, says Michelle Riba, MD, professor and associate director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center. She alerts as well for the fact that social influences and channels like Facebook and Instagram – where people like to show their vacations and that they having a wonderful time – can aggravate the symptoms related with depression.

Nature mixing with our feelings

Spring and depression could be allied due to one component: ragweed pollen. As stated in a study published by the National Institutes of Health, the symptoms before described, happen especially in people who suffer from allergic rhinitis. The rate of allergy is also greater in patients with depression.

In accordance with this research, “it is possible that sensitization and exposure to aeroallergens, which peak in spring, may be conducive to seasonal exacerbation of suicide risk factors such as anxiety, depression, hostility/aggression, and sleep disturbance.”

It is not all about sadness

Depression is wrongly understood as the synonym of sadness. In truth, sadness is an adaptive emotion in response to a significant loss and alert us for something that it’s not right and need attention. It is an essential emotion to experience the painful moments in our lives, nevertheless, depressed people tend to run away from sad feelings and try to hide them.

Depression is a more complex condition, it is characterized by an extended sadness and disinterest for life. Normally, depressed people abandon activities that previously were pleasant, and find difficult to carry out even very simple occurrences. Depression can cause a huge and persistent tiredness, lack of energy, insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness) and loss or increased appetite. These symptoms act like a snowball making people feel useless and with low self-esteem.

So, what can we do?

Mindfulness, meditation, hypnosis and self-hypnosis are techniques that have been used by some professionals to deal with their patients’ depression. Studies keep demonstrating that exercise can be compared with an anti-depressive and permits to boost energy, diminish fatigue, enhance cell growth and neurotransmitters linked to humour and endorphins, reduce stress and relieve muscle tension – which is very helpful to combat depression.

However, it is important to look for professional treatment especially if you realize that you are experiencing these symptoms for at least two weeks.

Medical Port works with Portuguese and English speaking specialists in depression, burnout and sleep problems. Don’t hesitate in calling us if you are feeling blue this spring.

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 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.

Have you taken your child to the pediatrician this year?

August celebrates children’s Eye Health month and Safety. Now it’s the perfect timing to get a pediatric consultation and ensure all is well with your children, just before school starts again. Medical Port can help you book a pediatric consultation while you are enjoying your stay in Portugal.

In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that over 40 million children under 5 were overweight, a number that tends to rise in all regions. Among teenagers, risky behaviors like alcohol or tobacco use, a sedentary lifestyle, unprotected sex and violence are some of the factors that can put their health at risk, with consequences for the future.

Society, parents and other carers should work together so that children can be first properly informed and followed to grow in a healthy way. A routine visit to a pediatrician is a good start to predict risks and promote a healthy lifestyle.

What can you expect from a visit to the pediatrician? Medical Port has prepared an infographic that covers the most common issues that are evaluated during a pediatric consultation, including physical, behavioral and development aspects.  If you want to know more about getting a pediatric consultation, visit our website.

 

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Click the image to enlarge

Looking for sunny and safe holidays, tourists turn to Portugal

As some common holidays destinations like France and Turkey deal with the threat of terrorism, the number of tourists in Portugal increases. While this country remains a good choice regarding safety, the government has also worked on improving security measures.

Vista da ponto 25 de abril a partir de um terraço com uma mesa decorada com flores e com um copo de vinho.

Bloomberg points out that Portugal, along with its neighboring country Spain, is already registering a growth in the number of tourists who are seeking sunny destinations. It comes in the aftermath of multiple terrorist attacks in France and the failed coup d’etat in Turkey, a nation now facing internal conflicts in addition to the already existing terrorism threat.

Tourism represents about 10% of Portugal GDP. In 2015, hotels registered over 16 million guests and 70% of those were foreign. The number of British and German visitors increased the most. Algarve, Lisbon and Madeira were the most sought-after regions.

Investment in the future

Bloomberg quotes the Portuguese minister of Economy, Miguel Macedo Cabral, who says that the country is working to promote different segments to attract more tourists, not only during summer, but year-round. The government is also looking to expand tourism to other places in the country.

Portugal ranks 5th in the 2016 Global Peace Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace, climbing 6 positions compared to the previous year. Yet, in the light of the terrorism events in Europe, the government has also invested in improving measures in airports and common tourist destinations.

However, this is not the only index where Portugal gets an honorable place. It is the 12th out of 207 countries in the KOF Index of Globalization for 2016. The Portuguese health care system ranked 12th in the world by the World Health Organization. In fact, Portugal has some of the highest rates when it comes to available hospital beds and number of physicians. You can learn more about Portugal and the Portuguese health care by visiting our site.

 

 

 

World Hepatitis Day: knowing the viruses

Yesterday the world observed the “World Hepatitis Day” that was created to raise awareness about this condition. There are five different types of hepatitis: A, B, C, D and E. Viruses B and C are the deadliest ones. Nowadays, Portugal is one of the most successful countries in the world dealing with Hepatitis C.

An image of a doctor writing on a notepad. and a piece of text saying "world hepatitis day 2016"

Hepatitis viruses have different incubation periods and can be symptomless for many years. In fact, less than 5% of infected individuals with hepatitis B and C know that they are infected – even nowadays, when it’s possible to detect Hepatitis with a simple blood test. Among those who are aware that they have hepatitis, the vast majority does not get any type of treatment. In a recent press release by the World Health Organization (WHO), Director General Dr. Margaret Chan says: “The world has ignored hepatitis at its peril. It is time to mobilize a global response to hepatitis on the scale similar to that generated to fight other communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.”

The five virus’ types are very distinct and spread in different ways. Transmission of types A and E are linked to eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water, and is most common in regions that lack access to safe water, as well as in poor sanitation conditions. Hepatitis B and C commonly spread when blood-to-blood contact occurs, through unsafe injections, syringe sharing and medical procedures, during childbirth (from mother to child), and through sexual contact. Hepatitis D is also transmitted via infected blood, however, it only occurs if the person is already infected with the hepatitis B virus.

Currently, Portugal has an unique approach against hepatitis C, offering universal treatment covering people in all stages of the disease, unlike other countries that only treat more advanced cases. Another example of Portugal’s leading expertise on the field is the participation of Dr. Ana Cláudia Miranda, a specialist in infectious diseases, who represents Portugal at “Committed to Cure”, an European initiative to help cure Hepatitis C – in which only countries with solid and renown expertise in Hepatitis C are invited to be part of. 

Like most diseases, it is helpful to keep in mind that prevention and an early diagnosis are the key to stay healthy. If you are planning on coming to Portugal this summer, take the opportunity and look after your health. We will gladly arrange the right check-up for you, based on your needs, preferences and availability.

Source: World Health Organization, World Hepatitis Day, World Hepatitis Alliance, SOS Hepatites, Committed to Cure

July 28 celebrates World Hepatitis Day

Hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of death and disability in the world according to a recently released report from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Over 90% of deaths are linked to hepatitis B and C. Early diagnosis could save many lives.

A graphic explains that 400 million people are infected with hepatitis B and C, only 5% are aware they are infected and only 1 in 100 people gets treatment.

World Hepatitis Day was set up in 2010 by the World Health Organization to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and promote access to better treatment and prevention programmes.

Hepatitis is a liver inflammation caused by a virus. 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 scenarios, acute or chronic hepatitis can lead to more serious problems such as cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. Over 90% of hepatitis-related deaths are linked to viruses B and C.

Portugal is one of the countries that has registered a great progress against hepatitis. Earlier this year, a successful and innovative treatment for Hepatitis C in Portugal – with a healing rate of 95% – has been praised within the medical community.

An early diagnosis can make the difference. Hepatitis can be detected with a simple blood test that you can choose to include in your next check-up. If you are visiting Portugal, we can arrange a complete check-up for you, according to your needs.

In the next blog post we will explain the different hepatitis viruses and their transmission modes.

Source: World Health Organization, World Hepatitis Day, World Hepatitis Alliance, SOS Hepatites

World Hypertension Day

Today, May 17 is the day to talk about hypertension. Hypertension is a disease that affects millions all over the world.

It is estimated that 4 in each 10 adults have high levels of blood pressure. Hypertension is the main risk factor for disease burden worldwide. Strokes and heart attacks are two of the main consequences of hypertension.

A healthy lifestyle can help combat hypertension. Some attitudes towards life can help make a difference:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Reducing salt intake
  • Practicing regular physical exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

    World Hypertension Day
    World Hypertension Day

The best way to learn how good your health is, and if you are in risk of having high blood pressure or other health condition, is to do a check-up. Medical Port offers a wide range of check-ups from the most general to the most specific ones. Learn more about our check-ups in our website.

May is the month of Hypertension awareness at Health Abroad. It is estimated that 4 in 10 adults globally suffer from hypertension. Raising awareness to the disease is important to put the spotlight in the preventive measures that can be taken to lower these numbers. Read our previous blog posts of the hypertension month:

Foods to lower the risk of certain types of cancer

Recent studies show that some foods can help lower cancer risk. New research is helping scientists’ every day to find ways to cure and prevent cancer, yet new variants of cancer continue to appear.

While we can’t prevent all types of cancer, there are some eating and drinking habits that can help prevent some types of cancer.

  1. Drink coffee to prevent liver cancer. According to a recent research from the World Cancer Research Fund International drinking coffee can lover liver inflammation: “While scientists aren’t completely sure how coffee battles liver cancer, they believe it might have something to do with lowering liver inflammation — which is one of the factors behind development of liver disease and cancer.”
  2. Mediterranean Diet to prevent uterine cancer “The Mediterranean Diet is considered one of the healthiest ways to eat, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it has been linked to a lower risk of cancer too.”, according to a study by the British Journal of Cancer.
  3. Eating nuts can protect against prostate cancer according to a study from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

A healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits are drivers of a good overall health, and while we can’t prevent cancer there are small actions everyone can take in order to be healthier. Eating fruits, vegetables and cereals on a daily basis, and reducing the amount of salt and sugar intake are good ways to start a healthy diet. We have already discussed the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet on previous posts you can read here.

Read the full article from Medical Daily, here.