Medical Conditions Your Travel Insurance Covers for Free

When you’re going to another country or place for a vacation or trip, it’s important to obtain travel insurance to make sure you’re covered, even if you have a pre-existing medical condition. If you’ve had a serious medical condition in the past or disabilities, you might be given high prices when it comes to choosing suitable travel insurance policy.

travel insurance with medical conditions

Both single trip or annual travel insurance policies may cover some pre-existing medical conditions as standard, and it’s essential to make sure your condition is covered before purchasing a policy.

Acne
Medically known as acne vulgaris, this skin condition is caused by a bacterial infection. It occurs when the hair follicles get infected.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by poor concentration, impulsivity and hyperactivity. This occurs primarily in kids.

Asthma
When you have asthma diagnosed before the age of 50 and has no more than two medications and no hospital admission in the last year, you can be covered for free.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition wherein the median nerve is compressed. Usually, it results from the use of hands in routine tasks.

Cataracts
Cataract is the leading cause of vision loss among adults. It’s the progressive clouding of the eye lens as a result of old age.

Corneal Graft
Another eye condition wherein the cornea is replaced by a donated corneal tissue.

Deafness
Hearing loss is another medical condition that is free as covered by a travel insurance.

Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition wherein the blood glucose levels increase as a result of insulin resistance. You are covered with the insurance as long as there are no complications like impaired kidney function, peripheral vascular disease, heart problem, leg or foot ulcers, nerve damage, amputation of foot or leg, liver damage and retinal damage. Find out more about travel and diabetes.

Fungal Nail Infection
Fungal infections are common problems of the skin. Good thing, this condition is covered by the insurance.

Glaucoma
Another eye problem, glaucoma is a condition whether the eye’s optic nerve is damaged. Without treatment, this condition may cause permanent blindness.

Hay Fever
Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is a condition wherein the nose is inflamed as a result of hypersensitivity to dust or pollen.

High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is covered as long as the patient has not suffered from any heart disease, stroke, mini stroke or kidney damage yet. read our article about managing high blood pressure whilst travelling

High Cholesterol
Increased cholesterol levels that is not inherited is covered by your insurance. This condition should be treated accordingly to prevent serious complications.

Impetigo
Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that is contagious. This emerges when the skin of the patient is already damaged, and the pathogens can easily cause infection of the skin.

Meniere’s Disease
This is a condition that affects the inner ear. If you have this, you might feel like you’re spinning (vertigo) and you have a fluctuating hearing loss.

Migraine
A migraine is a debilitating type of a headache. As long as you have a confirmed diagnosis and there are no ongoing examinations, your condition is covered for free.

Tendonitis
Tendonitis or the inflammation of the tendon is a painful condition. It’s covered by your insurance, so make sure you get one before travelling to another country.

Thyroid (Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism)

Whether you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, the good thing is, it’s included in the medical conditions that are free when you avail of an insurance policy.

Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. It could signal an underlying health condition. It’s described as the ringing sound inside the ear.

Tonsillitis
Tonsillitis or the inflammation of the tonsils is also included in the free medical conditions in an insurance policy.

Knowing that all these are included in a travel insurance policy is essential, and if you have any of these, you’ll get free medical coverage as part of the insurance.

 

Want to avoid stroke? Watch your blood pressure

We all know that diet and lifestyle can have a profound effect on wellbeing, but which aspects matter most? Is smoking more dangerous than drinking? And how do both compare with being overweight or stressed? Questions that an international team of researchers have just answered in relation to one of the biggest threats to our health: strokes.

Whether caused by a brain haemorrhage or a blood clot, strokes vie with cancer and heart disease as the biggest killers — and disablers — in the western world. And it is not just the elderly who are at risk. Every year in the UK there are 10,000 strokes in people under 55.

The Interstroke study, published in the this edition of The Lancet, identifies the ten most important modifiable risk factors for stroke and ranks them in importance (see below). The factors themselves won’t raise too many eyebrows among Times readers (I hope), but their relative importance might.

Blood pressure is also the easiest risk factor on the list to miss

high blood pressure headlines with medical instruments

High blood pressure tops the list by some margin, having nearly double the impact of physical inactivity, which is second in the ranking, and nearly ten times that of stress, which sits close to the bottom of the list. To put it another way, if you want to take one sensible precaution against an early stroke it should be to keep an eye on your blood pressure.

Blood pressure is also the easiest risk factor on the list to miss. Contrary to pub lore it rarely gives you a red face or constant headaches. It tends to be silent and pernicious, and the longer it remains undiagnosed the greater the damage to the delicate lining of the blood vessels resulting in the changes responsible for most strokes.

High blood pressure can develop at any age but is most common in the over-forties, affecting at least one in five adults in the UK to some degree at some time. The only reliable way to pick it up is to monitor it regularly — at least every five years from the age of 35 and annually if it’s found to be borderline.

But what is normal? It depends where the reading is taken. In your GP surgery you are likely to be told you have high blood pressure if your readings are consistently above 140/90. Yet in the more relaxed environment of your home the upper limit of “normality” is thought to be lower at 130/80-85.

Simple blood pressure chart showing systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) reading

Simple blood pressure chart showing systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) reading

Once a series of higher than ideal readings has been recorded the next step is to do something about it. This is where many people go wrong. It is not all about taking a pill to correct the numbers, although that will be an essential part of therapy for many people. Rather your first step should be to look at the risk factors identified by Interstroke and mitigate as many as you can. This can lower your blood pressure and have myriad other benefits too.

The next question is how low should you go? Up until now doctors have generally been content to see their patients’ blood pressure readings drop just below the upper limit of normal, but there is evidence that lowering it further offers protection. Recent American research suggests that aiming for 120/80 could reduce cardiovascular complications such as stroke, heart attack and heart failure by nearly a third more than the current targets.

However, there is a downside to having too low a pressure. It can make you feel lightheaded, particularly on standing or getting out of a warm bed or bath, and that carries a risk of falls, particularly in the elderly. And the type and dose of the more aggressive medication needed to achieve these lower targets tends to have more side-effects, including kidney problems. It is a matter of balance.

Fortunately, lifestyle interventions — such as taking up exercise, losing weight, eating a Mediterranean, low-salt diet, etc — have few if any worrying side-effects. So start with self-help measures and use medication as an adjunct, not a substitute. Treat your whole body and not just the numbers.

MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS FOR STROKE IN ORDER OF IMPACT

  • High blood pressure, physical inactivity, abnormal blood fats (not just high cholesterol), poor diet and obesity are the top five accounting for most strokes
  • Smoking and underlying heart issues (such as atrial fibrillation) sit in the middle of the ranking with alcohol, stress and diabetes at the bottom
  • For an overview of the UK guidance on measuring and diagnosing high blood pressure visit Nice for guidelines

Triple the risk of high blood pressure? Eat late!

People have been warned not to eat late at night after a study found it tripled the risk of high blood pressure.

Dinner should be eaten no later than two hours before bedtime, advise scientists, who insist that when we eat could be as important as what we eat.

Healthy eating to lower blood pressure

Previous research has emphasised the importance of a good breakfast in staying healthy, and the latest findings underline that eating is best done early in the day.

Almost 10 million people in Britain have high blood pressure, which increases their risk of conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Blood pressure usually drops at night, but in many patients this does not happen and these people are particularly prone to further heart problems.

“If blood pressure doesn’t drop by more than 10 per cent at night this increases cardiovascular risk and these patients have more [heart attacks and strokes] and more chronic disease,” said Ebru Özpelit of Dokuz Eylul University, Turkey, who led the study.

In the first study of its kind, her team found that “non-dipping” high blood pressure was much more likely in people who regularly eat within two hours of going to bed. They studied 721 patients with high blood pressure, half of whom had the non-dipping kind.

After adjusting for age, weight and other risks, they found that people who reported eating late at night were 2.8 times as likely to suffer from the condition, they told the European Society of Cardiology’s congress in Rome. Dr Özpelit said that late-night eaters were not bingeing on junk food but simply delaying dinner or snacking on nuts and fruit.

Although the study could not prove a link, she said that animal studies have suggested that eating at night interferes with the body clock and stimulates the production of hormones such as adrenaline which affect blood pressure. She emphasised that dinner should be eaten no later than 7pm.

“If we eat late at night, the body essentially remains on high alert as during the day, rather than relaxing for sleep, and stress hormones are secreted causing blood pressure not to decrease during sleep,” she said.

She said that mealtimes were a key factor. “We must define the ideal frequency and timing of meals because how we eat may be as important as what we eat,” she said.

“It is not as important as obesity and it is not as important as diabetes, but we found it was more important than salt consumption in our analysis.”

COMMENTS

This is a retrospective observational study.  It is based on what people with a condition (hypertension) recall in terms of their lifestyle and previous habits.  At best it may demonstrate association, not causation.  For that you need a prospective RCT (randomised controlled trial) where patients are divided into two similar groups before they have developed the condition, with one group eating late and one eating at a normal time, with all other confounding factors potentially controlled for.   Retrospective observational studies are low down on the scale of evidence quality and mean very little.  Must a be slow news day in terms of health.  I know the Times isn’t a medical journal but it could do without publishing such tosh with misleading headlines.

AND

According to this blood pressure must be very high in Cyprus and other European countries bordering the Mediterranean where it is normal to eat late.

yes….I agree, The southern Mediterranean diet is often cited as one reason for the longer life expectancy of people from the region.  Yet they routinely eat at 9.00 pm or an even more preposterous later time.

Managing your blood pressure when travelling abroad

How to keep blood pressure low whilst travelling

If you suffer from high blood pressure, follow our top tips to stay safe on your travels this summer.

According to the NHS, around 30% of people in Britain suffer from high blood pressure. However, if you are amongst this 30%, you should not be deterred from globe-trotting! There is plenty of advice you can follow to help manage your condition whilst travelling, ensuring that you stay safe in the sun.

Planning and Research

Careful planning is key! Before going abroad, consult your doctor if your blood pressure is especially high. It’s always sensible to get medical advice before embarking on a big adventure. Your doctor will be able to ensure you have all the advice and medication you need.

If you are on medication, then make sure you leave with a generous supply. Take extra in case you lose a packet, and don’t pack all of the tablets in the same place; if you lose your suitcase and all of your medication with it, you could be in trouble!

travel health

What to pack

It’s not just medication that’s important. If you suffer from high blood pressure, then the following essentials will help to manage your condition abroad.

  • Flight socks – These will help to keep your circulation healthy and reduce the risk of DVT in the air.
  • Blood pressure monitor – A compact blood pressure monitor will allow you to keep an eye on your blood pressure whilst away.
  • Emergency list – write down your medication and the contact numbers for your doctor and next of kin. Should there be an emergency, all of your information can be made known to the medical team.
  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – Don’t forget this card, which entitles you to free healthcare within the EU. In the event of an emergency, this will mean you can get medical care quickly and easily, without risking a payment. Keep your card tucked into your passport, so you never forget to take it abroad with you.
  • Health insurance documents – Make sure you have copies of your insurance documents to hand, in case of emergency. Specialist insurance for travellers with high blood pressure is available, so make sure you research the best policy for you.

Reduce stress at the airport

Airports can be notoriously stressful: long queues, screaming children and missed flights will only exacerbate high blood pressure.

If you plan ahead, however, this stress can be minimised. Consider booking an airport hotel before a flight, to save an early morning rush to the airport. In addition, try to pre-book your seats, so that you don’t have to worry about rushing onto the plane as soon as the gate opens.

An aisle seat is also a good idea, so you are able to easily move around on the plane. It’s a good idea to pack some snacks, too, as aeroplane food can be very salty and could potentially affect your blood pressure.

Relax!

Once you have taken care of these precautions, you can relax in the knowledge that you’re safe in the sun! And relaxing is especially important for those with high blood, as stress will only exacerbate the condition.

Take the fluctuating diktats of nutritionists with a good pinch of salt.

Several specific government food targets — however well intentioned — contain a modicum of guesswork, claims this article from the Sunday Times. “Five-a-day, 14-21 alcohol units a week, 20-30g of saturated fat, 18g of fibre: none of these targets has any precise evidence for them,” Zoë Harcombe, who co-authored last week’s study, has written.

The less salt that we eat in our diet, the harder our kidneys have to work to reabsorb it

One of the most staunchly held truisms of modern nutrition is that salt is bad for you. “Salt: the facts”, begins a taxpayer-funded website. “Many of us in the UK eat too much salt,” it affirms. “Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which puts you at increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and stroke . . . Cutting down on salt lowers blood pressure.” It adds that we should eat “no more than 6g of salt per day”.

“Why six?” asks Harcombe. “I have no idea and nor does the NHS. Why not seven? Why not five? Why have a target at all?”

The evidence that salt causes high blood pressure is decidedly shaky and has been repeatedly called into doubt. It rests for the most part on a couple of not especially recent or thorough trials. In the 1970s a Long Island scientist induced high blood pressure in rats by feeding them sodium that equated to a human eating 2,500g of salt a day. (Most of us eat around 8.5g of salt a day, or about 1½ teaspoons.)

salt shaker

In 1997 another study was held, ostensibly looking into whether a low-salt diet could control high blood pressure. Its participants followed a diet that not only featured minimal salt, but also contained fresh vegetables and fruits, lean protein and whole grains; it was low in saturated fat and, perhaps most crucially, contained little sugar.

Unsurprisingly, rates of high blood pressure in the group were lower than in the general population. But a lack of salt could not be isolated as the reason behind this. More than that, the low-salt group had higher rates of bad cholesterol, leading some researchers to call the results “one-sided”.

Avocados contain about 25g of fat, which led people to shun them in the 1980s. Now they are thought to raise good cholesterol. And have you ever met someone who got fat from avocado?

avacado

In contrast, the evidence that salt has a negligible effect on blood pressure — at least in most people — is now considerable. In January an international study, which followed more than 150,000 people across five continents, found that consuming less than 3g of sodium a day — or about 7.5g of salt — was associated with a 27% increase in cardiovascular disease and death. Eating between 3g and 6g of sodium, which is roughly the amount we normally eat, was associated with a lower rate of heart disease, while consuming more than 7g (about 18g of salt, or almost three times the UK average) was associated with a higher risk of heart disease and death.

This study has been buttressed by at least 10 others during the past 30 years, collectively following hundreds of thousands of people. One from 2011, which followed almost 4,000 Europeans for eight years, found that the risk for heart disease was 56% higher in a low-salt group than among those who ate the most salt.

These studies have repeatedly found that low-sodium diets — the same that you are exhorted to follow when you read websites such as “Salt: the facts” — could be more likely to kill you than simply eating the amount of salt that tastes right. We seek out foods that contain salt because without it we die.

“Restricting sodium in the diet to prevent hypertension and cardiovascular disease is the greatest con in preventative nutrition and medicine,” says James DiNicolantonio, a cardiovascular research scientist and an associate editor of the British Medical Journal’s online publication Open Heart. “Among people who lower their salt intake, the same percentage who get a reduction in blood pressure also get an increase in it.”

The rise of low-carb diets, including Atkins, led to people rejecting the first food of civilisation. But sourdough bread in particular is full of iron, zinc and magnesium, antioxidants, folic acid and other B vitamins. One study found it was safe for gluten-intolerant people.

He adds: “Low sodium stresses the heart. This increases the risk of atherosclerosis, heart failure and hypertension: the exact conditions that most governments and health institutes are trying to prevent by promoting low-salt intake for everyone.”

DiNicolantonio points out that our brains drive sodium intake: “That is one reason [why], over the past 50 years across diverse populations, consumption has been in a such a narrow range.

“In Britain, sodium intake has only fallen about 10-15% during the past decade. The authorities are shooting for 50% — a figure that would likely induce harm. Restricting sodium is also associated with increased mortality, worsened cognition and gait, increased risk of falling and subsequent fractures and worsened thyroid function — just to name a few.”

Despite decades of instructions exhorting people to cut down on the amount of salt they eat, the actual rates of salt consumption in developed countries are thought to have been relatively stable since the Industrial Revolution. Put simply: people are ignoring the advice not to eat more salt.

In part, this is because about 80% of the salt we eat in Britain comes from processed foods: cereals, frozen ready meals, pies, supermarket pizzas and so on. Barely a fifth is added in cooking or at the table. If salt caused high blood pressure, the past 30 years would have seen a spike in salt consumption. They have not. What we have seen instead is a surge in the consumption of refined carbohydrates and, especially, sugar.

DiNicolantonio points out that telling the food industry to lower the salt in processed foods may mean that people eat more of those foods to get the salt their physiology demands.

“So low-salt policies may lead to increased consumption of processed foods and the added sugars they bring with them,” he says, “which might in turn lead to increased type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular events and chronic metabolic disease.”

Sonia Pombo is a campaign co-ordinator and a graduate in nutrition who works at the Consensus Action on Salt and Health pressure group. She says those studies that fail to show a link between blood pressure and sodium are “limited and methodologically flawed”.

She adds: “It is evident that salt, in the amounts we eat, is a direct toxin that puts up our blood pressure, which is the biggest cause of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure and is the commonest cause of death and disability in the UK.”

Olive oil contains six times the saturated fat of pork, and is less chemically stable than butter and lard, which are therefore better for cooking.

olive oil

“A ‘direct toxin’?” says DiNicolantonio. “Salt is an essential micronutrient that our body can retain or excrete to maintain the perfect amount. The less sodium we eat, the harder our kidneys have to work to reabsorb it.”

I ask Harcombe whether, after butter and possibly salt, any other foods might be ready for rehabilitation.

“Eggs, certainly,” she says. “The evidence shows that eating cholesterol has no effect on the cholesterol in our own bodies — the American guidelines were just updated to reflect that. And eggs are high in cholesterol because a healthy chicken — or, indeed, a human — needs it to survive. Egg farmers went out of business because of that flawed advice, while cereal manufacturers made huge profits.”

Harcombe also believes that milk, lard and red meat are due to come back into favour. “The media often lump red meat with processed meat as equally likely to cause bowel cancer. The former is one of the most nutritious things on the planet: the latter is probably toxic,” she says.

The message to take from this dispiriting tale will be familiar. It is to eat fresh and wholesome food: vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts. Enjoy meat, fish and animal fats as accompaniments rather than as the basis of a dish. Don’t overdo sugar, but remember that food is as much about pleasure and the communion of the species as it is about fuel. Above all else, take the fluctuating diktats of nutritionists and killjoys with the best seasoning of all — a good pinch of salt.