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Health and Healing
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Joined: 27 Mar 2003
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2019 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scientists Thought They Had Measles Cornered. They Were Wrong.

Following intensive vaccination efforts, measles cases plunged across the world. Now clusters of new infections — some linked, some not — have confounded health officials.

The measles outbreak that led to a state of emergency in New York’s Rockland County began far away: in an annual Hasidic pilgrimage from Israel to Ukraine.

It is emblematic of a series of fierce, sometimes connected measles outbreaks — in places as diverse as Indonesia, the Philippines, Madagascar and Venezuela — that have shaken global health officials, revealing persistent shortcomings in the world’s vaccination efforts and threatening to tarnish what had been a signature public health achievement.

In 2001, the United Nations declared war on measles. With help from the federal government, the American Red Cross and big donors like Ted Turner and Bill and Melinda Gates, the U.N. began the Measles and Rubella Initiative and created Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Together, they poured billions of dollars into buying vaccines and helping countries deliver it safely, which meant building refrigerated storage facilities, supplying clean needles, training vaccinators and countering other logistical obstacles common in poor countries.

Public health officials worldwide tracked the results, monitoring cases and tracking outbreaks. The news was good: Measles declined worldwide by nearly 80 percent between 2000 and 2016, with fatalities — mostly among children younger than age 5 — plummeting to about 90,000 per year from about 550,000.

But two years ago, measles cases unexpectedly popped upward again, rising 30 percent in a single year. The virus re-invaded countries where it had been vanquished.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

World Health Day: Health for all

World Health Day is commemorated on 7 April all over the world, to raise awareness and draw attention towards the importance of global health. To mark this occasion, The.Ismaili highlights the need to take care of one’s well being in the face of increasing public health concerns.

Health is not restricted to physical well-being, but it also encompasses social, mental, and emotional dimensions. The theme of World Health Day 2019 is “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere.” This means that every individual should have access to the quality health services they need, whenever and wherever in the community without facing financial hardships.

Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study conducted in 2017 indicate that coronary heart disease, neonatal disorders, stroke, lower respiratory infections, diarrhoea, road injuries, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) accounted for more than 1 million deaths each worldwide in 2017.

All over the world, governments, United Nations agencies, non-profit organisations, and private initiatives are working to ensure that quality health care is available, especially to marginalised sections of the community.

Health-focussed agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network work with such institutions to supplement the services available to the public in a number of regions in the developing world. Speaking at the opening of the Phase II expansion of the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam, Princess Zahra remarked on these efforts:

“The Aga Khan Development Network and Aga Khan Health Services are a leading not-for-profit health care operations working in 12 different countries, operating 20 hospitals and nearly 500 health centres that provide quality health care to more than five million patients in a year, working closely with government and other institutions in areas of service delivery, population health, capacity building and cross cutting themes, medical and nursing education, digital health, health care financing and quality of care development.”

In areas where the Jamat resides, Aga Khan Health Boards advise members of the community around topics such as non-communicable disease, Early Childhood Development, mental health, and other conditions and considerations.

The Chairman of the Aga Khan Health Board in India, Dr Sulaiman Ladhani, says, “There has been an increase in the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and childhood obesity along with mental health issues in the Jamat. Sedentary lifestyle, faulty eating habits, and stress seem to be the biggest risk factors.”

Dr Ladhani emphasises the importance of taking early action to avoid difficulties later.

“Healthy lifestyle measures, especially during childhood, can go a long way in preventing such illnesses. Screening, early detection, as well as timely referrals to prevent complications are also helping in overcoming these life-threatening illnesses.”

World Health Day provides an ideal opportunity to reflect on how best to take care of your health and that of your family.

Here is a handy list of points that can help you and your family stay healthy:


- Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, and pulses.

- Walk, jog, or exercise 45 minutes a day for five days a week.

- Have regular check-ups and screenings.

- Pursue a hobby, meditate, or take up sport to maintain good mental health.

- Consider a health insurance policy.


- Eat highly processed and junk foods which only provide empty calories.

- Be a couch potato glued to the TV or computer or phone.

- Smoke or consume alcohol or drugs.

- Stress or get frustrated about everything and anything.

- Compromise on your and your family’s health.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In a Poor Kenyan Community, Cheap Antibiotics Fuel Deadly Drug-Resistant Infections

Overuse of the medicines is not just a problem in rich countries. Throughout the developing world antibiotics are dispensed with no prescription required.

NAIROBI, Kenya — Four days after her toddler’s health took a turn for the worse, his tiny body racked by fever, diarrhea and vomiting, Sharon Mbone decided it was time to try yet another medicine.

With no money to see a doctor, she carried him to the local pharmacy stall, a corrugated shack near her home in Kibera, a sprawling impoverished community here in Nairobi. The shop’s owner, John Otieno, listened as she described her 22-month-old son’s symptoms and rattled off the pharmacological buffet of medicines he had dispensed to her over the previous two weeks. None of them, including four types of antibiotics, were working, she said in despair.

Like most of the small shopkeepers who provide on-the-spot diagnosis and treatment here and across Africa and Asia, Mr. Otieno does not have a pharmacist’s degree or any medical training at all. Still, he confidently reached for two antibiotics that he had yet to sell to Ms. Mbone.

“See if these work,” he said as she handed him 1,500 shillings for both, about $15.

Antibiotics, the miracle drugs credited with saving tens of millions of lives, have never been more accessible to the world’s poor, thanks in large part to the mass production of generics in China and India. Across much of the developing world, it costs just a few dollars to buy drugs like amoxicillin, a first-line antibiotic that can be used against a broad range of infections, from bacterial pneumonia and chlamydia to salmonella, strep throat and Lyme disease.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

World Health Day: Diabetes need not be debilitating

For most parents, a child’s first birthday is filled with love, hope, and positive energy.

Surrounded by family and friends, the occasion is celebrated with laughter, cake, and presents. It is a time of joy and happiness, with the promise of many more to come.

Alishan and Nadim Ladha, new parents from Toronto, Canada faced a starkly different reality after their son Zayan reached this milestone. On March 24, 2014, Zayan Ladha was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (previously known as Juvenile Diabetes) just after his first birthday.

Since that day, life for the Ladhas has been drastically different. Raising a child to live with a chronic disease is an incredibly challenging ordeal, but their family has faced it with faith, support, and hope.

To mark World Health Day on April 7, a global health awareness day, we explore Zayan’s powerful journey with Type 1 diabetes. While diabetes and other chronic diseases can be taxing and difficult to navigate for families, the Jamat is well supported by health institutions and a host of health professionals.

“You can totally get through it,” says Alishan.

While she describes the journey as emotional and draining, she knows what helped her and Nadim along the way: “You definitely have to have the support system and have to have faith.”

Their support system consists of friends, family, Jamati members, and Type 1 Diabetes Facebook support groups.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2019 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oliver Sacks: The Healing Power of Gardens

Even for people who are deeply disabled neurologically, nature can be more powerful than any medication.

This is an excerpt from “Everything in Its Place,” a posthumous collection of writings by Dr. Sacks.

As a writer, I find gardens essential to the creative process; as a physician, I take my patients to gardens whenever possible. All of us have had the experience of wandering through a lush garden or a timeless desert, walking by a river or an ocean, or climbing a mountain and finding ourselves simultaneously calmed and reinvigorated, engaged in mind, refreshed in body and spirit. The importance of these physiological states on individual and community health is fundamental and wide-ranging. In 40 years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Comatose Woman Wakes, Learns It's The 21st Century
News 7 Hours Ago
Newser — Arden Dier
Until June 2018, Munira Abdulla had last been conscious when mobile phones were just starting to be widely sold. Had they then been readily available, someone might have been able to call for help.

Instead, Abdulla waited for hours for help to arrive after the car she was in collided with a school bus in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, in 1991. Though the 4-year-old son she reportedly shielded from impact walked away with only a bruise, Abdulla, 32, suffered a serious brain injury and spent the next 27 years minimally conscious but completely unresponsive, reports the National.

Then she opened her eyes in a German hospital room in the year 2018. It was a moment long anticipated by Omar Webair, now that same age as his mother at the time of the crash.

"I was flying with joy," he says. "I always had a feeling that one day she will wake up."

Abdulla's "seemingly miraculous" recovery came after her family received a grant in April 2017 to cover medication to aid wakefulness and surgeries to treat deteriorated limb muscles at Germany's Schoen Clinic, per the BBC.

In the final week of her stay, Abdulla—who'd previously been moved from hospital to hospital for insurance reasons—seemed to stir as her son got into an argument at her bedside.

"Three days later, I woke up to the sound of someone calling my name. It was her," Webair says. Now receiving treatment in Abu Dhabi, "Abdulla was able to answer questions, albeit with difficulty, and recited verses from the [Koran]" when visited, per the National.

Webair therefore urges others "not to lose hope on their loved ones," adding: "All those years, the doctors told me she was a hopeless case." (A six-week coma also had a happy ending.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Comatose Woman Wakes, Learns It's the 21st Century

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PostPosted: Mon May 13, 2019 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you thought about your mental health?

Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week in the United Kingdom, while May represents Mental Health Month in the United States. The occasion provides an ideal opportunity to ask and understand what mental health actually is, and to explore some of the existing perceptions around it.

Preservation of a sound mind is among the foundational principles of Islam's ethical code, which strives to ensure the dignity and honour of each individual from day to day, throughout the course of life. In general, it is also important to become more aware of, and to consider integrating holistic wellbeing into our daily routine, as this can have a benefit on the quality of our lives.

The importance of wellbeing in general.

Wellbeing has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent times, especially in Western Europe and North America. Wellbeing can be defined as ‘the state of being happy, healthy, or comfortable,’ and can be broken down into four areas; mental health, sleep, physical activity, and nutrition. Focussing on our mental health is especially important, although paying increased attention to all four areas can lead to improvements in our health, happiness, and other areas of life.

Each of these areas can also have a direct impact on our mental health. For example, being more physically active can reduce levels of anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues. With more sleep, our decisions can be more creative and productive. When our nutrition is on point we are more likely to have control over our emotions.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A Boy Who Had Spinal Surgery in the Womb Stands on His Own Two Feet

Operating before birth can minimize nerve damage caused by severe defects in tissue around the spinal column.

ALPINE, Calif. — Charley Royer, 17 months old, has such a swift, strong kick that putting a pair of pants on him can turn into a wrestling match.

His mother doesn’t mind. Far from it.

“Things that might annoy other parents, I’m so thankful for,” Lexi Royer said.

This child, who crawls around the house chasing a Yorkie named Bruce and proudly hauls himself upright against the couch, wasn’t expected to do any of this. Before he was born, doctors predicted that he would be paralyzed from the waist down. Prenatal testing had found that he had a severe spinal defect and might need breathing and feeding tubes, leg braces, crutches, a wheelchair and lifelong treatment for fluid buildup in his brain.

The condition, spina bifida, occurs when tissue that should enclose and protect the spinal column does not form properly, leaving part of the spine uncovered, with nerves exposed. About 2,000 children a year are born with the disorder in the United States.

Surgery to repair the defect can be performed after a child is born, but the results are often better if it can be accomplished before birth. Because nerve damage is irreversible and accumulates as a pregnancy progresses, closing the spine as early as possible can prevent further injury.

Traditionally, the prenatal surgery has required cutting open the uterus. But Lexi and her husband, Joshuwa, chose an experimental approach: fetoscopic surgery, developed at Texas Children’s Hospital by Dr. Michael A. Belfort, the obstetrician and gynecologist in chief, and Dr. William Whitehead, a pediatric neurosurgeon.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can This Ancient Greek Medicine Cure Humanity?

There’s fresh interest in a fabled shrub on the Aegean island of Chios.

CHIOS, Greece — Over my 54 years, I’ve pinned my hopes on my parents, my teachers, my romantic partners, God.

I’m pinning them now on a shrub.

It’s called mastic, it grows in particular abundance on the Greek island of Chios and its resin — the goo exuded when its bark is gashed — has been reputed for millenniums to have powerful curative properties.

Ancient Greeks chewed it for oral hygiene. Some biblical scholars think the phrase “balm of Gilead” refers to it. It has been used in creams to reduce inflammation and heal wounds, as a powder to treat irritable bowels and ulcers, as a smoke to manage asthma. I’m now part of a clinical trial in the United States to determine if a clear liquid extracted from mastic resin can, through regular injections, repair ravaged nerves.

That would have profound implications for millions of Alzheimer’s patients, stroke survivors — and me. The vision in my right eye was ruined by a condition that devastated the optic nerve behind it, and I’m at risk of the same happening on the left side, in which case I wouldn’t be able to see a paragraph like this one.

Will a gnarly evergreen related to the pistachio tree save me? That’s unclear. But in the meantime, I thought I should hop on a plane and meet my medicine.

Chios has just 50,000 or so year-round residents. It lies much closer to Turkey than to the Greek mainland. And there’s no separating its history from that of mastic.

In the 1300s and 1400s, when Chios was governed by the Republic of Genoa, the punishment for stealing up to 10 pounds of mastic resin was the loss of an ear; for more than 200 pounds, you were hanged. The stone villages in the southern part of the island, near the mastic groves, were built in the manner of fortresses — with high exterior walls, only a few entrances and labyrinthine layouts — to foil any attempts by invaders to steal the resin stored there.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2019 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Evolution Gave Us Heart Disease. We’re Not Stuck With It.

Heart disease is still a new disease, and we can adapt accordingly.

For much of history, there were three great threats to human survival: infections, injuries and starvation. By striking early and often, all three prevented us from fulfilling the most important reason for our existence: reproduction. Humans, therefore, evolved mechanisms to stave off these life-limiters.

These days most of us die of heart disease. The reason our species finds itself in the ever-constricting clutches of atherosclerosis — the insidious buildup of cholesterol-filled plaques in blood vessels leading to heart attacks and stroke — might be that human evolution inadvertently led us into its labyrinthine lair. If that is true, is it possible for us find our way out?

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A dire scarcity of drugs is worsening, in part, because they are so cheap

Many generic drugs have too few manufacturers

For most people, a good belly laugh is a wonderful thing. For Rachel Rothwell, it can literally cause her to crumple to the floor. She suffers from cataplexy, a condition whereby strong emotions, such as joy or anger, paralyse the muscles, prompting complete physical collapse. For the past nine years, a medication called clomipramine has alleviated her symptoms. So effective was the medication she almost forgot she suffered from the disease at all.

In April, however, the drug vanished from the shelves of the pharmacies in Calne, in southern England, where she lives. Initially she was able to get her hands on supplies in towns nearby, but within a month it was nowhere to be found. Ms Rothwell’s doctor prescribed a different medicine, but it took months to calculate the correct dose for her. In the meantime, her symptoms returned.

Clomipramine is on Britain’s official list of drugs to be stockpiled by pharmaceutical firms in preparation for Brexit, the country’s looming departure from the European Union. For some reason, not everyone is confident that Brexit will go smoothly. So some Britons with chronic illnesses are hoarding drugs on which they depend. Yet the scarcity of clomipramine has little to do with Brexit. The drug has been in short supply around the world as a result of manufacturing problems at Teva and Mylan, until recently the only two companies that supplied Britain.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 10, 2019 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

World Mental Health Day: Recognising the importance of sound mind

Mental health conditions often go undetected and unreported, as people can be reluctant to seek assistance.

Mental health is similar to physical health — everybody has it and should take care of it. When we reflect about our health in general, it is important to include the health of our minds as well as the health of our bodies in our thinking, plans, and conversations. On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, 10 October, we reflect on the importance of sound mind and a dignified quality of life.

In Islam, the human mind is accorded an elevated status and importance. The mind is the faculty through which each individual can achieve knowledge of Allah and His creation. Thus, preservation of a sound mind is among the foundational principles of Islam's ethical code, which strives to ensure the dignity and honour of each individual from day to day, throughout the course of life.

During times of good mental health, we find ourselves thinking and feeling as usual, in the way we would like. But when going through a stage of poor mental health, the way in which we think, feel, or react can become difficult or impossible to cope with.

In some cases, social pressures or traumatic life events have the capacity to significantly reorient one’s emotional state. In other cases, natural or man-made disasters, an outbreak of disease, or the displacement of people or communities can contribute to an altered frame of mind.

Mental health difficulties can affect up to one out of four people each year. Conditions range from common troubles such as anxiety and depression, to rarer problems, such as eating disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, and postnatal depression, among others. Many of these conditions often go undetected and unreported, as people can be reluctant to seek assistance.

Historically, this may be due to a perceived stigma attached to speaking about mental health, or to a lack of qualified health professionals in a certain area. However, this is changing as workplaces, educational institutions, governments, and civil society organisations are placing emotional wellbeing higher on their respective agendas. Occasions such as World Mental Health Day help to raise awareness, and encourage discussion among groups and individuals.

Experiencing a mental health condition can be confusing or even frightening to begin with. Such fears are at times reinforced by TV and media narratives. In reality, these experiences are a natural part of being human.

Today, anxiety in particular is becoming increasingly common among young people. Symptoms include worry, stress, and fear, particularly about the future. Anxiety is natural and common, but can become a problem if it impacts your day-to-day life. Social media anxiety disorder has also become a recognised condition, brought on by the increasing use of Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms, which can make users susceptible to comparison, unrealistic aspiration, and envy. The inability to switch off can lead to a seemingly endless downward spiral.

Those who are no longer young — though not yet old — may be affected by the pressures associated with work, studying, or taking care of a family. Depression can appear in mid-life or earlier, sometimes due to prolonged stressors, and sometimes a combination of events. Symptoms can include persistent sadness, low energy, and difficulty with motivation.

In later life, mental health issues can become more common; Depression affects 7% and dementia affects 5% of the older population. Dementia is a brain disease that can significantly impact the lives of those affected, and those around them. Symptoms include forgetfulness, confusion, and changes in behaviour. The ensuing isolation can negatively affect a person’s dignity, further compounding the condition.

Being part of a community provides a support system for people to offer a helping hand or a listening ear to someone in need, and to receive the same from others. To ensure that nobody is stigmatised or marginalised, everyone should be seen as an equal person — with hopes and dreams — and not labelled by their condition.

Those providing assistance need not be limited to health staff, social workers, teachers, or emergency responders. Any one of us may take on the responsibility — the ability to respond — to someone we may know who needs a person to speak to, or a shoulder to lean on.

It is important to remember that mental health conditions are treatable. Like any health condition, the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of a full recovery. There are various steps which can help ensure a good quality of life for yourself and those close to you:

- Remain mentally and physically active. Make time for activities other than work or study, such as prayer, meditation, reading, music, sport, art, or any other hobby. Attend a yoga class or take a walk in nature for a change of scenery.
- Build and maintain relationships with family, friends, and neighbours. Numerous studies have shown that socialising increases happiness overall, for yourself and others.
- Take a break from all screens. Put down your smartphone, close your laptop computer, and switch off the TV. See how long you can go without checking social media, email, and messages. Drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep.
- Recognise mental health conditions among others — reach out to offer assistance or encourage them to ask for help. Caregivers should remember to practice self-care, so as not to become overburdened.

Women and Their Mental Health

Good mental health is essential to optimal functioning in our daily personal and work lives. However, more than one in five women in the United States experienced a mental illness in the last year. According to the World Health Organization, women predominate in mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and somatic complaints. When women suffer, their families inevitably also suffer. For example, maternal depression is considered a significant risk factor for the socio-emotional and cognitive development of children.

Women need to be empowered to make mental health a priority and it is up to each woman to do her part in bringing mental wellness to the forefront. Below are some concrete suggestions towards this endeavor:

Take regular mental health screeners and talk to your medical provider about your mental health.

Make it a habit to focus on coping and mindfulness strategies every day.

Make the daily effort to shift your thoughts to make them more positive.

Nurture your relationships, seek support, and be a champion of other women.

Be an advocate.


World Mental Health Day

Mental Health: How to take care of YOURSELF

Every year, on October 10th, communities come together to celebrate World Mental Health Day. What exactly is mental health and why should we accord importance to mental health issues? Mental health is defined as “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.” ( Oxford Dictionary).Often disregarded and ignored, mental health issues, when untreated can become overbearing for an individual and can often lead to depression, substance abuse, heart disease, social isolation and a general sense of unhappiness. Not uncommon, 1 in 5 adults are diagnosed with mental health issues every year. However, millions of adults suffer through mental health issues every year such as depression, suicidal thoughts but are not properly diagnosed or refuse to be treated for fear of being judged by their surroundings.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Google translation of the original article in Portuguese:

AKHB: Fibromyalgia, living with a pain that does not pass

Fibromyalgia is an invisible chronic disease about which much remains to be known. It is characterized by pain throughout the body, even without physical injury to the muscles or joints.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease associated with generalized, often migratory musculoskeletal pain, and an increased sensitivity to a variety of stimuli that can cause pain and discomfort such as stress, stress or noise. This disease has been recognized by the World Health Organization since the late 1970s and is estimated to reach around 300,000 people in Portugal (particularly women aged 30 to 50).

What are the causes?
The origin and causes of fibromyalgia are not very clear. However, after years of research, it has been possible to identify some risk factors that include infections, genetic factors, trauma and stressful situations. The mechanisms that lead to this experience of generalized chronic pain are not yet fully understood, but some theories suggest that there is an increase in pain sensitivity due to changes in neurotransmitters and pain processing, both at the peripheral nervous system and at the system level. central nervous system, which leads to situations of hypersensitivity to external stimuli.

How does it manifest?
As noted above, fibromyalgia is characterized by generalized musculoskeletal pain. This pain is usually poorly defined, inaccurate, diffuse, often migratory, and may vary in intensity. The pain is aggravated by cold, sleep disturbance, and during periods of increased stress, worry or distress. In addition to pain, other symptoms are common, including fatigue, changes in sleep pattern with frequent night waking, morning tiredness, headaches, depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and irritable bowel syndrome.

What is the diagnosis?
This is a clinical diagnosis of exclusion and should be made by the rheumatologist by describing the signs and symptoms. It usually includes the presence of severe pain for more than three months, at least 12 of 18 specific points on the body. In addition, your doctor may recommend tests to rule out diseases that have symptoms similar to fibromyalgia.

How to treat?
The goals of treatments include pain relief, anxiety reduction, sleep improvement and quality of life to maintain good physical, social and family activity. This treatment should be directed by a rheumatologist, physiotherapist and psychiatrist, including pharmacological measures with analgesics and antidepressants and non-pharmacological ones.

Tips: The patient with fibromyalgia should be primarily responsible for their own treatment. In this regard, here are some tips for dealing with this condition:
• Learn how to identify stressful situations by controlling them as much as possible. Increased anxiety, worry, and distress aggravate symptoms (psychological counseling may be recommended);
• Lead a quieter life, seeking activities that bring you satisfaction and personal fulfillment;
• Always lie down at the same time, keeping the room dark and quiet;
• Avoid stimulating drinks such as coffee, black tea or tobacco at the end of the day.
• Get regular exercise. Physical activity (such as walking, swimming and water aerobics) is important to help relieve pain and strengthen and lengthen muscles. However, the doctor's instructions should be followed.
• Massage the affected areas and apply hot compresses to relieve pain.

For more information see:

Article by Alysha Amad, AKHB
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2019 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Google Translation of article in Portuguese:

Influenza is a contagious disease that most often cures spontaneously.

However, complications can occur, particularly in people with chronic illness or age 65 and older.

What is?
In recent years, the largest flu activity has been observed between December and February.
Influenza viruses are constantly changing, and immunity from the vaccine is not lasting, so people should get vaccinated annually.
Influenza is the most common adult disease and can be prevented by vaccination.

For whom?
We all benefit from influenza vaccination, because by contracting the disease we are always subject to infect other more vulnerable people.
The vaccine is strongly recommended for:
- People aged 65 and over;
- Residents in institutions or inpatients for long periods;
- pregnant women;
- Children over 6 months of age, pregnant women, breast-feeding women and patients with chronic cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, hepatic, haematological, metabolic (eg Diabetes Mellitus), neuromuscular or immune diseases.

It is also recommended for:
- People who live with high-risk individuals (mentioned above) if they cannot be vaccinated;
- Carers for children whose age does not allow vaccination (<6 months) and who are at high risk of developing complications;
- Health service staff (public and private) and other caregiver services;
- Firefighters in direct contact with people considered to be at high risk;
- Nursery, daycare and similar staff;
- Prison guards.

Vaccination is strongly recommended and free for:
- People aged 65 and over;
- People with the following chronic diseases or conditions, without need of medical declaration: Diabetes Mellitus, on hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis and Trisomy 21;
- Persons with the following chronic diseases or conditions, requiring medical declaration, referring to their inclusion in one of these risk groups: awaiting transplantation, undergoing transplantation, under chemotherapy, Cystic fibrosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficit under replacement therapy , pulmonary interstitial pathology under immunosuppressive therapy, chronic disease with impaired respiratory function, discharge of secretions or increased risk of aspiration of secretions, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease;
- Health professionals from the National Health System (NHS), firefighters in contact with people considered to be at high risk of developing post-flu complications and prison guards;
- Other situations: residents in institutions, integrated in the National Network of Integrated Care, individuals under certain conditions of home support.

How to have access to the vaccine?
- If you are covered for free vaccination, go to your health center or contact your GP. If you do not have a family doctor, you should schedule a vaccination at the Health Center in your area of &#8203;&#8203;residence.
- If you want to get the vaccine but are not covered by the free vaccination, talk to your doctor. You can get the vaccine from a pharmacy under prescription, with a 37% reimbursement.
- If in doubt, contact your attending physician.
So do not forget, get vaccinated!

Adapted from: and Clinical Guidance Standards of the General Directorate of Health. Influenza vaccination. 2019/2020 season. Standard No. 006/2019; 7/10/2019
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Google translation of the article in Portuguese:

The benefits of walking

Walking is an easy, light physical activity and contributes to good fitness. Walking regularly improves the quality of life and can reduce the onset of various diseases, contributing to a longer life.

It is an exercise that can be practiced by anyone, regardless of age and physical condition, yet has the advantage of being one of the safest activities.

The best place to practice the activity is outdoors, and more and more studies are examining the benefits that nature provides, whether through vitamins or heat. In addition, the influence of nature helps to recover the brain from fatigue caused by work and study.

Outdoor activities can alleviate symptoms of diseases such as Alzheimer's, dementia and depression, and improve blood circulation, which can help to reduce the risk of heart problems and also help reduce swollen ankles and legs.

Google translation of the article in Portuguese:

AKHB: Stroke

Stroke is the leading cause of death and disability in Portugal. It is estimated that three Portuguese suffer one stroke per hour, one of which ends up dying and the other having severe sequelae.

Stroke results from the sudden reduction or interruption of blood circulation to a part of the brain by blockage of blood flow (ischemic stroke) or rupture of a cerebral artery (hemorrhagic stroke). This causes brain cell damage that dies or ceases to function normally because they are deprived of oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood.

The most frequent type of stroke is ischemic stroke, which accounts for 85% of cases. In this type of stroke, the artery is blocked by a clot or atherosclerosis, which leads to an inadequate supply of blood to a part of the brain. On the other hand, hemorrhagic stroke happens when there is ruptured cerebral artery, which leads to flooding of brain cells.

Alarm Signals

There are some signs that can be detected in the person suffering from a stroke. The “5F's rule” helps to recognize these signs:
• Asymmetrical face with one corner of the mouth or drooping eyelid;
• Decreased strength in an arm or leg, and may also lack balance;
• Speak strange;
• severe, sudden, intense headache with no apparent cause;
• Sudden lack of vision or even double vision.

There are a few procedures that can make it easier to recognize these signs:
Ask the person to laugh and watch if one side of the face is sagging;
• Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one arm falls without force;
• Say a simple sentence and ask the person to repeat it to check for difficulty speaking or incoherent speech.

It is crucial that when recognizing any of these signs, you should act as soon as possible, as stroke recovery can be influenced not only by location and extent but also by elapsed time.

What to do next?

You should immediately call 112 indicating the alarm signals, the time the stroke started, the apparent severity of the situation (conscious or unknowing person), the gender and age of the person, the exact location and other information requested by the operator. The CODU (Urgent Patient Orientation Center), after confirming the suspicion of stroke, activates the prehospital stroke Via Verde, which allows more efficient referral to the hospital.

Risk factors
Stroke has several modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. Modifiable risk factors are those that, from a preventive perspective, can correct:
• Hypertension;
• dyslipidemia (high cholesterol and triglycerides);
• diabetes;
• Food;
• obesity;
• Sedentary lifestyle;
• smoking;
• Cardiac arrhythmias.
Non-modifiable risk factors are those in which we cannot intervene and, in the case of this disease, include:
• Age;
• Gender (most prevalent in men);
• Race (most prevalent in black individuals);
• Genetics (family history of stroke increases risk by about 30%).

How to prevent?

Given the above factors, it is essential to maintain a balanced and varied diet, restricted in salt and saturated fats, and rich in fiber, vegetable fruits and vegetables; maintain regular physical activity; avoid ingestion of alcoholic beverages; stop smoking or being exposed to smoking environments and monitor and / or control blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol values.

For more information see:
https: // ... / avc-recognize ...

Article by Adam Sadrudine, AKHB
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2019 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why Didn’t She Get Alzheimer’s? The Answer Could Hold a Key to Fighting the Disease

Researchers have found a woman with a rare genetic mutation that has protected her from dementia even though her brain has developed major neurological features of the disease.

The woman’s genetic profile showed she would develop Alzheimer’s by the time she turned 50.

She, like thousands of her relatives, going back generations, was born with a gene mutation that causes people to begin having memory and thinking problems in their 40s and deteriorate rapidly toward death around age 60.

But remarkably, she experienced no cognitive decline at all until her 70s, nearly three decades later than expected.

How did that happen? New research provides an answer, one that experts say could change the scientific understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and inspire new ideas about how to prevent and treat it.

In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers say the woman, whose name they withheld to protect her privacy, has another mutation that has protected her from dementia even though her brain has developed a major neurological feature of Alzheimer’s disease.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2019 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Google translation of the Portuguese article:

Pneumonia is an inflammation in the lung tissue caused by an infectious microorganism, bacteria, virus or, less frequently, fungus. In Portugal, most pneumonia is caused by the bacteria 'Streptococcus pneumoniae'. It can be mild, severe or deadly, depending on the age of the patient and their state of health.

Pneumonia affects about 12 people per 1000 inhabitants per year and the most frequent victims are children and the elderly, as they have a more vulnerable immune system and the disease can cause greater damage, often requiring the patient to be hospitalized.

Symptoms may vary depending on the aggressiveness of the microorganism involved and the condition of the affected person. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath and some patients may also have chest pain, aggravated by deep inspiration or cough, muscle, head and joint pain.

What are the risk groups?

What precautions should be taken to prevent pneumonia?

Is vaccination free?

Need to go to the doctor?

Details and more...
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 27, 2019 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Google translation of the article in Portuguese:

AKHB: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a respiratory disease whose main cause is current or past tobacco use.

At the onset of the disease you may have symptoms such as cough and sputum, often undervalued in the smoker. However, as exposure to tobacco or other harmful gases continues, these symptoms may become more frequent and bothersome. Respiratory infections are also more frequent in these patients who over time may begin to develop other symptoms such as tiredness, difficulty breathing, feeling short of breath and / or wheezing or rustling. Symptoms of tiredness and shortness of breath appear particularly with physical exertion and are therefore often attributed to a limitation of physical exertion by aging.

Are chronic bronchitis, emphysema and COPD different diseases?

No. In COPD there may be chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both. When you talk about chronic bronchitis it means that the bronchial tubes are inflamed and produce an excessive amount of sputum. Inflammation makes it difficult to eliminate sputum, so the bronchi may become progressively blocked, increasing the risk of respiratory infections. When we talk about emphysema, we mean that the alveoli (terminal part of the airways where carbon dioxide exchanges take place, the lungs' main function) permanently destroy their walls, impairing the functioning of the lungs. .

What is the cause of COPD?

Tobacco use (cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars) is the main cause of COPD. In 80% to 90% of patients there is or has been exposure to tobacco smoke. Exposure to certain irritating dust, vapors or other products or fumes, if prolonged, may also cause COPD, regardless of the consumption of cigarettes or other tobacco products.

How often is COPD?

In Portugal, 1 out of 10 adults over 40 and 3 out of 10 adults over 70 suffer from this disease.
COPD is a disease of adults, not children.

How can I tell if I have COPD?

To confirm the diagnosis a spirometry is required. Spirometry is an exam that measures the amount of air exhaled by the lungs. It is easy to perform, does not cause pain and allows you to confirm if you have the disease and its severity.

Does reducing tobacco use improve this disease?

Yes. The more smoking, the greater the risk of disease and the more serious the disease may progress. However, reducing tobacco use does not solve the problem because the smoker is used to a certain amount of nicotine and sooner or later it is customary to resume smoking in the previous amount. Even very few cigarettes can make the disease worse.
Quitting smoking altogether is the most effective method to slow the progression of the disease and prevent further aggravation.

I want to quit smoking. What should I do?

Ask your attending physician for help or seek a smoking cessation appointment at:

- National Health System - ARSLVT consultation places:

- CUF Hospital: Telephone contact - 800 100 077

More information at:

- Hospital dos Lusíadas: Telephone contact - 217 704 040

More information at: https: // ...

- Portuguese League against Cancer: Telephone contact - 225 420 689

More information at: https: // ...

- Hospital da Luz: Telephone contact - 217 104 400

More information at: https: // ...
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If ‘Pain Is an Opinion,’ There Are Ways to Change Your Mind

All pain is real, but it’s also true that it’s “made by the brain” and that we can exert some control over it.

Some days I’m grumpy; other times, my head hurts or my feet or my arms do. Yet when I play the trumpet, my mood improves and the pain disappears. Why?

Alternative medicine — including music therapy — is full of pain-relief claims. Although some are simply too good to be true, the oddities of pain can explain why others hold up, as well as why my trumpet playing helps.

One thing we tend to believe about pain, but is wrong, is that it always stems from a single, fixable source. Another is that pain is communicated from that source to our brains by “pain nerves.” That’s so wrong it’s called “the naïve view” by neuroscientists.

In truth, pain is in our brain. Or as the author and University of California, San Diego, neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran put it, “Pain is an opinion.” We feel it because of how our brain interprets input transmitted to it from all our senses, not necessarily because of the inherent properties of the input itself. There are no nerves dedicated to sensing and transmitting pain.

Anyone who has willed themselves to not feel a tickle as ticklish can appreciate the difference between stimulation and our perception of it. Pain can be experienced and relieved in phantom limbs.

Discomfort and swelling increase when people believe a painful hand or knee is larger. They decrease when it seems smaller, for example in a distorted image or based on virtual reality technology. Injections are less painful when we don’t watch them. Using our brains, we can exert some control over it.

On the one hand, this is not so surprising because every perception we have is the brain’s best guess at interpreting what is happening and what we should do about it. On the other hand, the feeling of pain is overwhelmingly palpable, corporeal — when you have pain, you have it somewhere. Nobody wants to hear, let alone believe, it’s made in our head.

“Many pain patients say, ‘I know my pain is real because I can feel it,’” said Lorimer Moseley, a clinical scientist and pain researcher at the University of South Australia. “All pain is real, no matter what is causing it. But also, all pain is made by the brain in response to the information available to it.”

According to his work and that of others, the degree of pain is not a reliable indicator of the severity of injury. And sometimes there is pain without any tissue damage at all.

An extreme example came from a 1995 report in the British Medical Journal. A builder jumped onto a nearly six-inch nail, which penetrated his boot’s sole, the tip visibly protruding from its top. To relieve his excruciating pain, doctors administered fentanyl and a sedative. But, when they removed the boot, the doctors discovered that the nail had passed between his toes, leaving his foot unharmed. There are many studies that find that the fear or catastrophizing of pain contributes to a greater feeling of pain.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2019 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Twice a month, members of the Jamat come together to play sports, participate in lectures, and learn how to maintain a healthy life style.

Since October, the Portfolio for Youth and Sports together with the Portfolio for Women’s are promoting sports activities for the Jamat. Every other Sunday Jamati members of all ages, get together to participate in various sports activities: football, cricket, badminton and also gymnastics, pilates and zumba for women. These sports activities are sometimes followed by health lectures.

Physical activity and good nutrition are key elements for a healthy lifestyle – they increase life expectancy and diminish the incidence of non-communicable diseases.

Photos at:

AKHB Breast Cancer Seminar

On 7 December 2019 the Aga khan Health Board and the Women´s Activities Portfolio for Angola joined hands and held a seminar about Breast Cancer.

A renowned gynecologist and surgeon, shared pertinent information with an audio-visual presentation to address the issue of Breast Cancer outlining various issues such as early prevention, symptoms, nutrition, family history and the importance of self-examination. This informative session was simultaneously translated into Gujarati and was followed by a Q&A session.

A lady member of the Jamat shared, an unguarded and eloquent discourse about her personal journey and her challenges with battling and surviving Breast Cancer with courage, hope, positivity and strength. This candid revelation was met with open hearts and ears, flooded with curious questions and rewarded with honest and straightforward answers making the seminar an unmitigated success.

A pot luck lunch, with a variety of specialties was enjoyed, and the occasion culminated with the application of mehndi, dandiya raas, local dance, music, conversation and fun, allowing everyone to enjoy and celebrate the upcoming Salgirah.

Google translation of article in Portuguese

AKHB: HIV Infection and AIDS - The Importance of Diagnosis

AIDS is a disease that results from infection by a virus, the acquired immunodeficiency virus or HIV, which reduces the body's defenses against many diseases and cancers.

HIV can fall asleep in our body for several years and at this point the person is said to be HIV positive. Although you have no symptoms, you can pass the virus on to someone else all this time. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a more advanced stage of infection, which can take anywhere from 2 to 15 years to develop. At this stage, the individual's defenses decrease further and symptoms such as tiredness, lumps in different parts of the body (corresponding to the lymph nodes), weight loss, fever, diarrhea, cough, etc. may appear. Without treatment, the person with AIDS may also develop more serious diseases such as tuberculosis, meningitis, other bacterial infections, and even some cancers such as lymphoma or Kaposi's sarcoma.


HIV can be transmitted through contact with: blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions. Thus, HIV can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth. However, behaviors such as ordinary daily contact, kissing, hugging, shaking hands or sharing personal belongings, food and water are NOT ways of transmitting this virus.
Risk factors and behaviors that may increase the likelihood of virus infection or transmission:

• Unprotected sex - protection provided free of charge in primary care, some hospital consultations and in other contexts such as schools, etc.
• Have other sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea and herpes - consult your treating physician if you have any complaints.
• Sharing objects that may be in contact with contaminated fluids: toothbrushes, razors / razors, sharp objects, piercing objects and needles (including tattoo and piercing), drug inhalation objects (such as notes or straws) ) syringes and other medical devices in contact with blood.
• Sharing syringes infected by injecting drug users - the Syringe Exchange Program aims to distribute sterile syringes and needles and to collect and destroy material used to protect against infection in this at-risk group. Inquire at your pharmacy.


The Directorate-General for Health recommends that everyone between the ages of 18 and 65 be tested at least once in their routine exams (as diagnoses over 60/70 are increasing, this limit may be extended or even no longer exists) and is repeated whenever risky behaviors exist. The diagnosis is made from HIV-specific blood tests. This analysis detects the antibodies that the immune system produces against the virus or even the virus itself.
And where can the test be done? You can ask your GP or GP to prescribe the exam. Another option is to take the test (anonymous, confidential and free) at an HIV / AIDS Early Warning Counseling Center. In some places (mobile health facilities, NGO facilities, some health services) you may do so-called rapid tests.

What if the result is positive?

Despite being a disease without cure, by taking medication individuals can have a life and average life expectancy similar to people without the disease.

• It is important to always take medication.
• Always use condoms in sex.
• Do frequent tests and be watched by the doctor.
• Warn your contacts: This is your responsibility to stop the transmission of the disease and enable others who may have been infected to start treatment early and to prevent the spread of the infection to others.

This diagnosis can trigger a set of emotions that can be difficult to deal with: anxiety, denial, depression, fear. Psychological support and counseling is thus crucial to ensuring the well-being of those living with HIV. In addition to hospital services, some NGOs or Private Social Solidarity Institutions (IPSS) also provide counseling consultations for infected persons.

For more information see: .. .
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 24, 2019 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Google translation of article in Portuguese

AKEB: Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, inflammatory and degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system.

It usually occurs in young adults between 20 and 40 years, with a higher incidence in women. The mechanism of the disease is based on an error in the body's defense system that causes myelin (a protein that surrounds the cells in the nervous system responsible for transmitting information, neurons, and allows such transmission) to be considered as a foreign body. and get attacked. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that there are around 2 500 000 people with MS worldwide and in Portugal more than 8 000.

The symptoms of MS are variable, may vary over time and change in severity and duration: extreme tiredness, numbness and tingling, vision problems, changes in gait and balance, muscle weakness and stiffness, tremors, speech problems and swallowing, bladder and bowel changes, sexual dysfunction, memory disorders, reasoning, concentration, etc.


MS is a disease that poses many challenges for researchers, especially because its cause is unknown, although it is generally believed that there is a combination of genetic, immunological and environmental factors that favor the development of the disease. There is no laboratory test that is specific to multiple sclerosis. Diagnosis is always based on clinical symptoms, but imaging is required, such as an MRI scan of the brain. If your doctor deems it necessary, you can also order a cerebrospinal fluid analysis (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord). For this purpose, a needle is inserted at a specific location between the patient's vertebrae to collect a small sample of liquid; This technique is called lumbar puncture.


Multiple sclerosis has no cure but there are medications available that modify and delay its evolution, reducing the frequency and severity of outbreaks, the accumulation of damaged areas in the nervous system and helping patients to cope with symptoms. The National Health Service ensures the supply of these drugs, free of charge, and in a controlled manner through hospital pharmacies, under the prescription of the responsible neurologist.


When Multiple Sclerosis is diagnosed, there is a very real initial scare, as no one is prepared to have a chronic disease let alone when this diagnosis occurs at age 20 or 30. The emotional burden of this disease is very large, which makes the first months after diagnosis difficult. In Portugal there are several institutions that can help you:
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2020 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Google translation of the original article in Portuguese:

Depression: You can beat it! If you are depressed, ask for help!

Depression affects people of all ages, of any gender or social status. It causes significant suffering and can limit the individual's functioning to the point of preventing him from performing even the simplest daily tasks.

The limitation of social and professional functioning has an impact on family, friendship and work relationships, and may ultimately compromise economic sustainability. In the worst case scenario, depression can lead to suicide, currently the second leading cause of death between 15 and 29 years of age worldwide. However, depression can be prevented and treated.


Depression is characterized by persistent sadness and / or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities, which may be accompanied by changes in appetite or weight, changes in sleep (more often difficulty sleeping, but excessive sleepiness can also happen , especially in younger individuals), lack of energy, feelings of devaluation or guilt, difficulties in thinking, concentrating or making decisions and recurring thoughts about death or will to die.

Quite different from sadness, which is inherent to human experience, in depression these symptoms are present almost every day, most of the day, for at least two weeks. And they cause significant suffering and disability.


- Talk to someone you trust about your feelings. Most people feel better after talking to someone who cares about them.
- Seek professional help. Talk to your attending physician.
- Remember that with the right help you can treat yourself. Treatments can vary between drug treatments and / or psychological treatments help to correct the pattern of negative thoughts and help the person to adapt to reality. Relaxation or meditation techniques can also be beneficial.
- Keep up the activities you used to enjoy doing when you were feeling good.
- Keep in touch with family, friends and the regular practice of your faith. -
- Come to Jamatkhana!
- Maintain healthy eating habits.
- Get enough sleep.
- Exercise regularly, even if it's just a short walk.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and other drugs. They can worsen your depressive illness.
- Accept that you have a disease and adapt your expectations: at this stage you may not be able to do everything you used to be able to do, but THE BLAME IS NOT YOURS. Once treated, the disease will recover the energy and joy that it had previously.
- If you feel you are in danger of doing yourself harm: ASK FOR HELP IMMEDIATELY.
The stigma surrounding mental illness, including depression, remains a barrier for people to seek help. Talking about depression, whether with a family member, friend or healthcare professional helps to break the stigma by allowing more people to seek help. Remember if:

- Not alone! Many people also went through what is going on today and managed to overcome adversity.
- It is okay to talk about suicide. This can help you to clarify ideas and feel better.
- Having an episode of self-harm or suicidal thoughts is a sign of severe emotional distress. You are not to blame and it can happen to anyone.
- You can improve.
- There are people who can help you.

Useful helplines:

- SOS Voz Amiga Line, better known by the “Telephone SOS”, available daily from 4pm to midnight, through the phones 213 544 545/912 802 669/963 524 660
Friendly conversation, from 3 pm to 10 pm, by the numbers 808 237 327 or 210 027 159;
SOS Student, from 8 pm to 1 am, by calling 239 484 020;
For more information, see:

https: // ... handouts-depression / en /
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The gut-brain connection: Using science to better digest our thoughts

Eating is meant to be a slow, steady, and nourishing process. Modern science suggests opting for fresh food whenever possible.

Have you ever had a gut feeling about something? What if it isn’t simply an expression, but a statement grounded in scientific fact? This is the story of how your gut and brain have been in constant communication with one another since birth, and how you might want to listen to their conversation.

The intelligence of our individual organs and their integration with the intelligence of our whole body has long been underestimated. Much of modern medical practice has evolved to categorise our individual organs to a speciality of doctors. For example, cardiologists look after the heart and gastroenterologists; the gut and so forth. The result is one of crafted expertise, yet each group of doctors is made to focus on only one part of the body. As we mature into our professions, many doctors come to realise that this is in fact not the reality of how the body itself evolved and the movement towards integrated, holistic care begins again.

Back in the womb, a single layer of cells divided to form a long vertical tube down the central line of your body. It is this same tube that formed both the organs of your digestive tract, the so-called gut, and at the same time your spinal cord and nervous system. Married from birth, these organs were destined for lifelong companionship. The gut even began by mushrooming its own unique nervous system, the so-called enteric nervous system, which believe it or not, contains 100 million nerve cells operating without any input from your brain, hence you may have heard the gut called our second brain.

Yet the conversation is even more wondrous than plumbing and electricity… The gut tells the brain when it is hungry, full, or when nature calls by talking in multiple ‘languages’ all at the same time. These languages involve hormones (the endocrine system), blood cells (the immune system) and bacteria (the microbiome). Did you know that the bacteria and viruses of your gut outnumber your genes by 150 to 1? That is 100 trillion bugs living in your gut. It is thought that 90% of all diseases can be linked in some way back to the health of this ecosystem. Not only that, but these bugs produce approximately 90% of the happy hormone serotonin which, simply put, signals to your brain feelings of well-being and happiness.

“All Disease Begins in The Gut.” - Hippocrates

Food and mood are intrinsically linked, and we are the architects of whether this relationship is positive or negative. We need to be aware of what we are eating and where our food comes from in order to make wise choices and influence this food-mood relationship. For example, the need to feed a growing population requires the use of pesticides and specific animal feeds, changing the composition of our food to contain many more hormones and additives, which our bodies have not historically evolved to cope with. The rising rate of digestive conditions in western society, such as heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be linked to this phenomenon, not to mention the increasing prevalence of allergies and intolerances. Yet this is only half the burden that living a modern life places on our digestion.

How often do you find yourself eating on the go? Or finishing a meal having been so preoccupied talking, texting, or looking at a computer or TV screen that you barely noticed how each bite tasted? When we rush our food, we put our nervous system under stress — so called ‘fight or flight’ mode. This signals to our body that instead of digesting a meal, we should put all our vital energy into surviving to meet that work deadline or not running late to pick the children up from school. Science also tells us that sensations such as smell, taste, and texture influence our hunger levels and the satisfaction we get from eating a meal. So eating in a rushed, non-mindful way can have detrimental effects on weight and digestion.

So, what can we do to honour this conversation and promote healthy digestion? Firstly, opt for fresh food whenever possible. This means everything that comes from the earth. For every single packaged food item you buy, why not count the ingredients? If there are words you don’t recognise or can’t pronounce, remember that your gut probably can’t understand them either! The fewer ingredients on your packaging, the better.

Secondly, notice how you feel when you eat particular groups of foods. Do they make you feel bloated or uncomfortable afterwards? Perhaps it is time to choose differently.

Thirdly, why not sit, breathe, and give thanks before you embark on a meal. This signals to your nervous system that it is time to flip the switch from ‘fight or flight’ to ‘rest and digest’ mode.

Finally, when you suffer from low mood or weak digestion, kindly recognise that stress is felt in every cell of your body. Eating is meant to be a slow, steady, and nourishing process. Take a step back and remember that you are more than the sum of your individual parts and since your gut is listening, make your thoughts easy to digest.
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