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 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.

31st May: World No Tobacco Day

Tobacco contributes to 16% of non-communicable diseases and tobacco-related diseases kill more than 7 million every year.

Today commemorates the World No Tobacco Day, a date that aims to raise awareness of the hazardous effects of tobacco, not only for health, but as well for the environment, and for life quality in general. As the World Health Organisation Director-General Dr Margaret Chan says: “Tobacco threatens us all. Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air.”

Tobacco is a huge burden on health. On average, smokers lose 15 years of life and almost half of tobacco users will die of tobacco – related causes. Second hand smoke, the smoke produced by cigarettes and smokers than can be inhaled by other people contributes to the death of nearly 1 million people every year.

Tobacco has also a strong impact on economy, by reducing economic productivity and placing a burden on healthcare expenditure. According to the WHO, every year over US$ 1.4 trillion are spent by households and governments worldwide because of tobacco.

Quitting smoking can be a challenge, but it certainly will improve the lives of smokers and their families and friends. If you are living in Portugal and you want to stop smoking, contact us. Medical Port has partnered with a clinic that offers a comprehensive program to quit smoking, involving a multidisciplinary approach covering from psychological support to nutrition and medical follow up.

Source: World Health Organisation (WHO)

Lifestyle changes to fight high blood pressure

Hypertension affects 4 in 10 people all over the world and the numbers are growing every year. For those affected by hypertension there are some lifestyle changes that can attenuate and lower blood pressure values and for those who are in risk of having high blood pressure, they can prevent the disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

There are 3 lifestyle changes that can make a difference:

1. Adopt a healthy diet

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grain cereals is good for the overall health of every adult. According to the website WebMD, a healthy diet should include:

  • “Eating more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods
  • Eating less of foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as fried foods
  • Eating more whole grain products, fish, poultry, and nuts
  • Eating less red meat and sweets
  • Eating foods that are high in magnesium, potassium, and calcium
  • Eating foods with less sodium”

2. Maintain a healthy weight

Having a health weight means keeping a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. Being overweight or obese increases the risk for high blood pressure, as well as other health issues related to excess weight.

3. Be physically active

Practice exercise regularly is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Walking, running or practicing other sports is essential to every adult and children. It is recommended to walk for at least 30 minutes a day in order to be healthy.

These lifestyle changes aren’t just important for controlling blood pressure but also for general wellbeing.  The more healthy behaviors you put in your daily routine, the better your health will be in the future.

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:

Consequences of hypertension

Hypertension is a silent and symptomless disease.

Those who suffer from high blood pressure can go on without noticing the condition for years and years and only learn about it when other related diseases appear. If left untreated, hypertension can originate many other diseases and health conditions, and some can be fatal.

According to the American Heart Association, some of the health consequences of untreated hypertension are:

  • Damage to the heart and coronary arteries which can lead to heart attack, heart disease, congestive heart failure, aortic dissection and atherosclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Kidney damage
  • Vision loss
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Memory loss
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Angina
  • Peripheral artery disease

Controlling blood pressure is essential to keep track of the way the condition is affecting those with hypertension. Blood pressure values vary with age, gender and ethnicity so you should be aware of what values are considered normal and what values are considered high and need immediate action. Regular doctor visits and regular screenings are very important to control existing hypertension or to prevent hypertension.

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:

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.

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:

10 facts about diabetes

April 7 is the World Health Day. Every year the World Health Organization chooses a health problem that concerns millions and millions of people around the world and raises awareness to that problem.

This year, the World Health Day is dedicated to Diabetes, a disease that affects 422 million people, according to the World Health Organization. In order to join the conversation about diabetes we will highlight 10 facts about the disease:

  1. 422 million is the estimated number of people worldwide who suffer from the disease
  2. It is one of the leading causes of death
  3. There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 (caused by lack of insulin production) and type 2 (caused by the ineffective use of insulin)
  4. The third type of diabetes is related to pregnancy, the gestational diabetes
  5. The incidence of type 2 diabetes is much greater than the others
  6. When diabetes is detected and well-managed, people can live a long and healthy life with the disease
  7. Early detection and diagnosis is crucial for patients to live a long life
  8. The majority of deaths related to diabetes occur in low and middle-income countries
  9. Diabetes can cause blindness, amputation and kidney failure
  10. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle increases the chances to avoid being affected by diseases such as diabetes type 2 that are caused by sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition. Eat well and be physically active are two of the most important tips for those who want to live longer.

Read the full article on the World Health Organization’s website, here.

Vitamins and its benefits for your health

Our bodies need a certain amount of vitamins in order to be healthy. Maintain a healthy diet is important for weight-loss goals but is also important to ensure the body is consuming the necessary amount of vitamins.

When following a healthy and balanced diet, it is possible to get most of the vitamins the body needs with daily food intakes.

These are some of the vitamins our bodies need in order to be healthy:

  • Vitamin A – promotes the functioning of the immune system and maintains good eyesight. Vitamin A can be found in the following foods: cod-liver oil, sweet potatoes, carrots and leafy vegetables.
  • Vitamin B complex – there are 8 vitamins in this complex and their benefits are to transform carbohydrates, fats and protein into energy that lasts throughout the day. Vitamin B complex vitamins can be consume through foods like meat and fish.
  • Vitamin C – known for its immunity properties, this vitamin is also a good antioxidant and infection prevention. Vitamin C in high doses is known for slow the growth and spread of some forms of cancer like prostate, pancreatic and liver. The foods that contain vitamin C are mainly citrus fruits, tomatoes and broccoli.
  • Vitamin D – Also known as the “Sun vitamin”, this is the most hard to get vitamin in the winter months because one way to get is through sun exposure. The lack of vitamin D is associated with weak bone health.  Fortified milk, cheese and cereals are good sources of vitamin D when the sun exposure isn’t enough. Getting vitamin D in the winter in Portugal isn’t likely to be a problem, since there’s an average of 330 sunny days per year.  Click here to read more about Portugal in the winter.
  • Vitamin E – acts as an antioxidant in the body and it is especially beneficial for both hair and skin as it protects cells from the damage of free radicals. This vitamin is present in foods like leafy green vegetables, almonds and vegetable oils.
  • Vitamin K – one of its roles is to prevent blood clotting and to promote bone health. As people get older the intake of this vitamin is important for osteoporosis prevention. Food sources of this vitamin are leafy green vegetables, olive and broccoli.

The intake of these suggested foods is good for maintaining vitamin levels up and keep the body ready to defend itself from external threats. We should always favor the natural intake of these vitamins from food instead of the artificial chemical ones.

Read more about vitamins and its benefits here.