Up to 80% saving on treatment abroad

August 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Health, Travel


It has become more common for people to seek medical, and dental, treatment abroad. Around 80,000 people did so last year, including a friend of mine who went to Poland for expensive dental work and the flight, treatment and hotel still cost far less than a couple of sessions with his regular dentist. The range of things on offer range from fertility treatments to knee and hip replacements – and all parts of the body, internal and external, that you can think of.

The idea of combining treatment with a holiday might sound attractive – certainly better food while you convalesce in a hotel on the beach – but how do you know where to look and what sort of value you will be getting? Fortunately there is online help from Treatment Abroad, who have just released their 2009 survey of prices available to medical travellers. They surveyed 180 clinics and medical tourism operators in 39 countries and found that patients can make savings of over 80% on some common medical treatments.

Yes, but when it comes to health the price is only one part of the equation and quality of treatment, surgical expertise, reputation, patient safety are also vital factors. So too is communication and it really is not a good idea to have treatment if the staff involved don’t speak excellent English and you can’t make yourself fully understood.

If you are waiting on an NHS appointment it can certainly seem attractive and a good use of your money; for example, varicose vein treatment in Poland is on average 84% cheaper than in the UK and if wrinkles are getting you down then a trip to Cuba for a forehead lift could save on average about 87%. Other procedures such as elective surgery, cosmetic or dental work don’t have the same high saving, but still cost around 55% less than in the UK.

Other factors influencing patients to leave the UK for treatment are concerns about post operative infection in UK hospitals, the length of NHS waiting lists and the comparative high cost of private healthcare in the UK.

You can get more information and a free comprehensive guide to medical tourism from http://www.treatmentabroad.com and I advise you to study it carefully and weigh up all your options before you come to a decision.

Deep vein thrombosis main risk not from air travel

August 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel


We are all aware of the risks from DVT on long-haul flights, but it seems that it might have been overestimated according to researchers at the very wonderfully named German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. They have found that DVT is very unlikely in healthy travellers, so you could ditch those unattractive flight socks, but that there is another – and very real – risk. If you have had an accident where you have to wear a cast or splint then that can mean an increased risk of DVT in the leg and pelvic area.

Why is it a problem?

Blood clots have the ability to travel to the lungs, leading to pulmonary embolism, and if for any reason you are unable to move your legs regularly, then the blood flow through your veins is slower than usual. As a result, blood may clump together, forming a blood clot which can lead to DVT. Having a pulmonary embolism can reduce the supply of oxygen to the body’s cells, overstrain the heart and even cause heart failure.

Wearing a cast or splint increases the risk of DVT

You know that if you have to wear a cast or splint that you will usually suffer unbearable itching, but most people do not know that this also increases the risk of DVT. The advice from Professor Sawicki, lead researcher in the study, is that to prevent serious complications, it is important to get back on your feet and move around again as soon as possible and medically advised. If you really can’t move then your doctor may prescribe anticoagulants to reduce the blood’s ability to clot.

If you prefer a natural approach then there are a number of foods and supplements that are known to thin the blood. These include foods with high amounts of aspirin like substances called salicylates, omega-3 fatty acids, foods with natural antibiotic properties such as raisins, cherries, blueberries, grapes, strawberries and oranges and vitamin E supplements. You might also want to avoid foods that are high in vitamin K as that helps the blood to clot and so is counter-productive. These foods include spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, lettuce and peas.

But isn’t air travel the main risk?

Surprisingly, even in higher-risk groups, the risk of air-travel-related thrombosis is still well below half a percent. Research on millions of air travellers has revealed that only about 2 to 5 out of every 10,000 people who took a flight longer than 6 to 8 hours developed DVT that caused symptoms (at the most 0.05%). Even people who had a higher risk – for example, because they had large varicose veins or were very overweight – were not highly likely to develop deep vein thrombosis: only 20 out of every 10,000 travellers were affected (0.2%). Nor was there any evidence to show that people on short flights of less than 4 to 6 hours had an increased risk of thrombosis.

If you would rather be safe than sorry – and you did invest in those special compression flight socks – then the advice is that you will lower your risk by putting them on at least 2 hours before the flight and keep them on throughout the entire journey.

10 point healthy flight check

June 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Travel


As this is the time of year when we can start jetting off on holiday, I thought you might like some tips for having a healthy flight. As my last flight resulted in my getting a serious infection, I have a vested interest and have investigated various ways you can protect yourself while flying off to somewhere wonderful – or even Benidorm.

The problem with travelling by air is all those people; first at the airport itself and then when you get on the plane and you are forced to breathe in the same recycled, stale air, plus all their germs. Your plane has a system where it continually brings in around 50 percent fresh air into the cabin and then cleans and filters the remaining 50 percent and sends it straight back to you. Assuming a perfectly efficient, effective and highly maintained system you should be fine – but I prefer not to trust in fine or perfect maintenance.If you feel too hot and direct the air vent to you then that’s an open invitation for germs from your fellow passengers coughs and sneezes to be sent express delivery to you, so wear fewer layers and don’t open the vent. Follow this action plan at least 2-3 days before you fly and minimise your risk.

1. Prevention is the best plan so prepare your immune system to repel boarders by ensuring you eat a light, healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and as much garlic as you can manage without becoming a social outcast. Take Echinacea and a good multivitamin and try to take at least 1 gram of vitamin C a day.

2. Are you a nervous flyer? If so, carry Rescue Remedy and put six drops on your tongue to help calm your nerves.

3. Once at the airport, boost your C intake to 2 grams in 500mg doses over a few hours. It will support your immune system and helps reduce the symptoms of colds.

4. Ginkgo will help if you get symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fatigue and dizziness when flying as it will increase blood flow and oxygen to your brain.

5. To avoid deep vein thrombosis you need to keep your blood circulating, so walk round as often as you can and in your seat do some exercises to stretch and flex your feet and calves. CoQ10 is a supplement that also helps thin the blood and worth taking around 100mcg if you are at risk of DVT.

6. Jet lag travelling can be a real problem if you cross time zones and 600mcg of melatonin can help with this. Melatonin should not be used by pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children. Please be aware that it is not legal to buy in the UK, and can only be bought online and then imported for your own use, then it’s no problem.

7. A simple trick is to alter your watch to the destination local time as soon as you are on the plane and this ‘tricks’ your body into adjusting faster.

8. Drink all you want – as long as it’s water or juices. That celebratory ‘we’re on holiday’ drink on the plane is a bad move health-wise and issues an open invitation to bacteria. When you drink alcohol it will dehydrate you, as you know if you have over-indulged, and when that happens the minute pores inside your nostril get enlarged and makes an even bigger gateway for those all those viruses and bacteria you are trying to avoid.

9. Make your meal the vegetarian option and give your stomach a break. Meat protein means your body works harder to break it down and that diverts resources from tackling any possible virus or bacteria that may have got into your body.

10. Carry, and use, a sanitising hand gel. Not just when you use the bathroom, but every time you walk round the plane and have to touch the back of the seats for balance or to allow other people through. It’s contact that is the problem and anywhere other people have touched is potentially hazardous.

Enjoy your flight and have a happy, healthy landing!

Cutting the cost of travel vaccinations

January 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Natural Medicine, Travel


One of the drawbacks to foreign travel, at least to me, is the number of vaccinations that you seem to be required to have. I am travelling to the Far East this month and was told I had to have Typhoid, Teteanus, Polio, Hepatitis A and Malaria. I am not a fan of vaccinations unless absolutely essential, as they do have side effects. The most serious to me is that they do compromise your immune system, and these are some of the others:

Headache, Itching, Loss of appetite, Fever, Nausea and vomiting, Anaphylaxis (extreme allergic reaction), Redness or pain and swelling around injection site, A general feeling of being unwell.

I like to keep my immune system as healthy as possible to naturally ward off infection and illness so I phoned my favourite homoepathic chemist and asked if there were any effective alternatives to these vaccinations. I was assured there were certainly were, and I was sent a neat set of little bottles to take one a day for the next 10 days. If homoeopathy is good enough for the Royal Family it is certainly good enough for me, and there is an additional bonus that doesn’t worry them, in that it is a huge cost saving. My remedies cost me £13, including postage, and the cost quoted at a Travellers Clinic was the best part of £150 which seems an awful lot of money to me.

I will let you know how I get on, and if you want to find out more then call Galen Homoeopathics on 01305 263996

Personal portable superbug protection

October 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies, Travel, Wellness

There have been so many stories in the press about ‘superbugs’ and the danger of infection in hospitals, or anywhere you are away from home and staying in a public environment. I am a great believer in being proactive, and I have a close friend who has been in hospital 6 times over the last 5 years, and got infected each time – so I was happy to pass on to him some news that came my way this week.

If you are concerned for yourself, or a friend or relative in hospital, or care home, then you could buy them something that will be a lot more welcome than flowers or fruit. Just launched is a product called PatientPak which the manufacturers claim will help protect people when they visit hospital as it is proven to kill pathogens, including MRSA, and is effective within 10 seconds. It is also proven to kill a wide spectrum of viruses and bacteria including E Coli, Norovirus, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria and Avian Flu (H5N1), and can also be used in the home or when travelling.

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, has proposed that the NHS constitution gives patients responsibilities as well as rights, and that means you are going to be responsible for high standards of personal hygiene in order to avoid bringing infections on to a hospital ward – and also presumably to discourage you from suing them if you do fall ill.

The PatientPak consists of a number of items formulated and developed by medical doctors, which has only been available so far in hospitals. They work by stopping harmful bacteria building up resistance to the active ingredients and this is what you get in the Pak:

** Two types of antimicrobial wipes: one for surfaces for cleaning surfaces and killing germs on door handles, bed frames, toilet seats, food tables, work surfaces and taps and a gentler one for your face and body.

** An antimicrobial sanitising hand spray to use before handling food, after using the toilet and after any physical contact with others, together with a hair and body wash.

** A fabric spray that kills germs that can survive on fabric and can be used on clothes, curtains or bed linen.

** A pH-neutral cleansing soap and nail brush which are essential for removing spores and other pathogens, including C difficile. Your mother was right about always thoroughly washing your hands, it’s the first line of defence against germs.

** Finally, they include a toothbrush plus toothpaste, lip balm and pen.

The pack is a one-off item, you use it and dispose of the contents at the end of your hospital visit to minimize the transfer of bugs when you get back home. All that, plus a leaflet full of advice on good hygiene practice and how you can protect yourself from superbugs. There’s also a polite notice that patients can place next to their hospital bed, which requests that people check that their hands are clean before treatment is given – and includes your visitors who pick over the fruit they have brought you and then leave you with their germs! This note was apparently suggested by the leading charity, MRSA Action UK, to help if you are too shy, embarrassed, or ill, to ask people to wash their hands before approaching you.

The pack retails at £15.99, which sounds like a bargain to avoid all those bugs, and you can buy it in main branches of Boots, Holland & Barret and the pharmacies in major supermarkets. If you can’t find it then you can buy online from www.patientpak.com.

DVT risk from pollution

September 21, 2008 by  
Filed under At Home, Health, Medical Research & Studies, Travel

We have become used to the idea that being immobile for long periods such as on a long-haul flight, or sitting in the same position at a desk for hours, may pose a risk for DVT (deep vein thrombosis), but now it seems that the air pollution produced by the burning of fossil fuels can drastically increase the risk of developing these potentially fatal blood clots as well. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health did some research on the air pollution levels in the Lombardy region of Italy. They chose an area where 870 known DVT patients lived, along with their 1200 healthy neighbours. When they analysed the air pollution they found that for every 10 microgram per square meter increase in particulate concentration, a person’s risk of DVT increased by a staggering 70%.

I don’t know if Lombardy is particularly polluted, but if you live in an industrial area, it would pay you to know about the warning signs for DVT – though it has to be said sometimes, there are none at all. The first sign can be chest pain or discomfort which usually gets worse when you take a deep breath or when you cough. You might have get an unexplained sudden onset of shortness of breath, which is the most common symptom, or feel lightheaded, dizzy or even a bit anxious. If you are at all concerned, please consult your doctor, and if it is a severe chest pain get immediate help.

Natural insect repellants

June 11, 2008 by  
Filed under featured, Lifestyle, Travel, Wellness

If you are trying to live a more natural lifestyle then it makes sense to try and avoid the chemical insect repellents that are on the market. The most common of these are based on DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide) which is a very effective insect repellent developed in America some years ago but which can cause irritation to eyes, lips and other sensitive areas. Formulas usually have an oily feel and can cause skin reaction with some users and DEET damages certain plastics and fabrics. It is also less effective in low concentrations, but there is an increased reaction risk in high concentrations and it has a strong ‘chemical’ smell.

Natural insect repellents are usually based on the essential oils of Citronella, specific varieties of Eucalyptus, geranium, lemon grass, cedar or soy. One analysis of various plant essential oils found catnip oil to be promising for mosquitoes – or rather for avoiding their bites. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is often included in natural formulations and the active compound in the plant, extracted from the leaves and twigs, is thought to be p-menthane-3, 8-diol which can be chemically synthesized. The oil is thought to repel mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats and, according to Consumer Reports in the US, a lemon eucalyptus product called Repel received a higher overall score than the 7% DEET insect repellents tested.

Some natural repellents also make use of pyrethrins, which are naturally-occurring compounds with insecticidal and repellent properties. They are found in pyrethrum extract from certain chrysanthemum flowers and are safer to use on children, pets and plants. Pyrethrins are biodegradable and safe in normal use because of their low toxicity to mammals and the fact they don’t accumulate in the body. Although generally harmless to clothing and plastics, caution must be used if applied before going in the water as they are harmful to fish and amphibians.

Modern formulations have improved the effectiveness and reduced the need for frequent re-application and the use of micro-encapsulation technology has resulted in some almost odourless repellents. Their advantage is that they are not sticky; are environmentally friendly; safer on sensitive skins and most can be used on children. There is much less potential for skin irritation and they are much less harmful to plastics and fabrics.

There are a couple of websites I suggest you go to look for natural insect repellents who are based in the UK. The first is the Deetfree Natural Insect Repellent which is based on natural oils including Rosemary, Sage, Artemesia, Chrysanthemum Parthenium, Tea tree Oil, Lemon Eucalyptus Oil), Calendula, Lavender, Wild Mint and Thyme. www.naturalcollection.com.

Another effective natural alternative is based on an old Indian herbal recipe used for generations to stop insects biting both humans and animals. It is made without using any chemicals (including no DEET, Citronella, or CFC’s) and instead has ingredients that include Neem oil (a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of an evergreen tree – Neem Azadirachta indica) plus Bergamot, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus. This one also comes as a handy pocket size spray, details on their website at www.neemco.co.uk

Finally, would you believe an Avon product has many supporters as being a great mosquito repellent? Apparently the Avon Skin So Soft Dry Oil Spray contains citronella so you can ward off the mosquitoes and condition your skin at the same time! It is being used by some customers on their pets, dogs, cats, and horses to keep the flies away – and presumably to keep them smelling sweet.

Extra health benefits for men

Extra health benefits for men

Over 16 million adults in the UK currently are affected by hypertension and it is certainly vitally important to control high blood pressure to help keep your heart healthy. However, now it seems that paying attention to your blood pressure can also bring other benefits, particularly for men and some of the concerns they might have around ageing. A study conducted by researchers from Harvard and the Veterans Association (VA) in the USA examined the medical records of more than 350 older men who were part of the VA Normative Aging Study, which included a range of neuropsychological tests. This is a way of looking at brain function by summarizing the results of a series of organized mental tasks such as ability to learn and retain information, problem solving ability and intelligence for example. The key finding was that as the men aged, their overall neuropsychological function declined.

That is something you might expect, but what was startling was that that decline was significantly more pronounced among men who had high blood pressure but were taking no preventive measures or treatment to control it. In particular this group showed a reduced ability to handle language so that their verbal fluency and word recall was significantly worse when compared to men who also had high blood pressure but who had it under control. So if you want to keep on having lively arguments using exactly the right words then make sure you monitor your blood pressure levels!

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