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.

 

 

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!

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.

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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