21Aug

A Checklist to Know If You’re At Risk of Heart Disease

There are several risks factors for heart disease – some of which are preventable. They include hypertension, hyperlipidemia, smokingdiabetes mellitusobesity, lack of physical activity and chronic stress. Genetics also plays a factor which can or can’t be controlled by medical measures. [1]

According to the British Heart Foundation, UK residents dying from heart and circulatory diseases before 75 was recorded to have risen in May 2019 for the first time in 50 years. [2] In fact, coronary disease is one of the top health problems among expats in Hong Kong. [3]

This is a cause for alarm given that pre-existing conditions such as heart disease makes one more susceptible to Covid-19. This is why it’s important to check-in if you or your family are at risk.

Simultaneously, we recommend that you revisit your current health insurance (if any), to see if you’re covered in case something happens.

Here’s a checklist to determine if you’re at high risk for heart disease:

> Increasing age – people aged 65 or older are at a higher risk

> Gender – heart disease is more prevalent among men.

> Family health history (as well as race) – Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop heart disease themselves. African-Americans have more severe high blood pressure than Caucasians, therefore, at a higher risk.

> Smoking – smokers and the people who regularly get second-hand smoke from them

> High blood cholesterol – note that a person’s cholesterol level is also affected by age, sex, heredity and diet.

> High blood pressure – this condition increases the heart’s workload, causing the heart muscle to thicken and grow stiff as one ages.

> Inactivity – a sedentary life can lead to poor blood circulation, high cholesterol, and other co-morbidities.

> Diabetes – Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics are prone to heart disease. The risks are even higher if blood sugar is not properly managed.

> Being overweight – obesity leads to heart disease and stroke even if there are no other risk factors.

If you think you’re at risk and checked off several of the factors mentioned above, visit a health professional and ask about preventive measures you can do to reduce risks.

In addition, make sure you’re health insurance can cover coronary disease-related procedures and check-ups to protect your finances and prevent the need to dip into your life savings.

Sources:

[1] https://www.chp.gov.hk/en/healthtopics/content/25/57.html

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/13/heart-circulatory-disease-fatalities-on-rise-in-uk

[3] https://expatliving.hk/how-to-prevent-heart-disease-cardiologist-hong-kong/

[4] https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/understand-your-risks-to-prevent-a-heart-attack

19Jun

Should I still get the flu shot during the pandemic?

Monsoon season signals the beginning of flu season – and with the world still trying to survive the coronavirus, is it still worth getting the flu shot even though it won’t protect us from Covid-19?

COVER ALL THE BASES

Stocking up on healthy food, vitamins, hand sanitizers as well as constant handwashing aren’t the only measures we can take to fortify our safety.

Getting the flu shot may not stop coronavirus but it could mean the difference between getting infected with mild symptoms or suffering (and possibly dying) from complications.

And since there’s a greater chance of a person getting the flu than the coronavirus, taking the vaccine is one of the best ways to stay healthy and avoid a mountain of medical bills.

Contact Village Insurance Direct for inquiries on medical insurance for expats in Hong Kong.

THE BEST TIME TO GET A FLU SHOT

In relevance to the ongoing pandemic and according to the CDC, people who have not received the flu vaccine for the current season and are planning to travel to regions where influenza activity is ongoing should get a flu vaccine to protect themselves during their trip.

In addition, the CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get an annual shot a three to six months before flu season starts.

STILL NEED TO TRAVEL? HERE ARE SOME TIPS:

– Be mindful and thorough with your research when you must travel to another country. The CDC provides updated information on seasonal flu activity throughout the world.

– During your trip, observe local guidelines such as mask-wearing and practice healthy habits.

– After a trip, closely monitor your health for seven days. In case one becomes ill with flu-like symptoms, immediately seek medical attention if they are severe.

For inquiries on travel insurance that covers repatriation and other measures to protect you during a pandemic, get it touch with us today.

11May

Rainy Season Diseases

Rain is associated with a throng of things, most of which are good.
So, naturally, the rainy season invigorates these good things such as: running in puddles, the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof that lulls you to sleep, coffees by the windowsill, and for the love-stricken, it’s the ultimate “cuddle weather”.

However, the rainy season brings more than the comfort hot cocoas and oversized sweatshirts.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but ‘this is also the season for “seasonal” diseases. The quotation marks are there because these diseases are technically always present, however, because the conditions are more favourable in the rainy season, the risk of acquiring them is higher.
Here’s a list of diseases that you need to look out for in the season that keeps on pouring…diseases:

1) Dengue

Dengue is a mosquito-borne, fast-spreading, disease caused by the Flavivirus. It is one of the fastest-spreading diseases at present and, if left untreated, can lead to death.

In the Philippines, out of a total of 77,040 suspected cases, 328 deaths were reported in the first 20 weeks of 2019. Consequently, this makes it an urgent public concern. It is one of the most monitored diseases during the rainy season.

The cases of dengue increase during the rainy season because of the stagnant water that fills up make-shift or incidental “basins” such as pots or bottles which serve as a paradise for the virus-bearing mosquitoes. These areas act as breeding grounds for the mosquitoes. If the area is unkempt or polluted, the happier the mosquitoes.

Further research for the cure for dengue is still underway, and definite
treatment for the diseases is still non-existent. The best way to handle a dengue patient is to bring them to a hospital for supportive care.

The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages early detection, awareness, and preventive measures to fight the spread of the disease. These preventive measures include cleaning the mosquito breeding sites, using mosquito repellents, and nets.

Furthermore, vaccination is encouraged. Aside from dengue, other vector-borne diseases to look out for during the rainy season are Malaria and Yellow fever. However, the incidence of the two is lower than that of Dengue.

2) Leptospirosis

An indirect disease associated with heavy downpour is Leptospirosis which is a bacterial disease caused by the spirochete Leptospira. It can be carried by a variety of animals such as rodents, dogs, livestock, and wildlife however, the poster boy of the disease are sewer rats.

The disease can be acquired when broken skin, just like in cases of lacerations or open wounds, is exposed to water or soil contaminated by the infected animal’s bodily fluids (urine, blood, saliva, etc.). This can also be ingested in cases wherein the water lines in domestic homes are contaminated.

Places, where there is a poor sewage system or sanitation, are prone to flooding. When there’s rain, there’s a flood, and that murky water is a mixture of animal urine and faeces. Hence, people who trudge the flood, especially those with wounds on their legs and feet, are prone to developing the disease.

If untreated, Leptospirosis will cause serious illnesses such as kidney or liver failure, meningitis, difficulty breathing, and bleeding.

Unlike Dengue, antibiotic therapy can be done to fight the disease, but early
detection is vital to the treatment. It is also stressed that prevention can be done by avoiding contact with contaminated water and soil by using appropriate, protective clothing. Prevention of rodent infestation by keeping your area clean is also highly recommended.

Other diseases that we should be vigilant for in cases of flood include typhoid fever, cholera, and hepatitis A.

If you’re travelling anywhere in Asia this rainy season, make sure you have the proper travel insurance cover to keep you protected from emergencies.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/exposure/hurricanes-leptospirosis.html

https://www.who.int/westernpacific/news/detail/11-06-2019-dengue-increase-likely-
during-rainy-season-who-warns

https://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/ems/flood_cds/en/

24Apr

Money-saving tips for new graduates

Ah, yes. Graduation.

Finally!

Independence!

Freedom!

The world is your oyster…if only you had the money.

Graduation creates this illusion of immortality for fresh graduates, especially for those belonging in Asian or other conservative families wherein they usually live with their parents or remain tethered financially until they hold a job of their own. So, the moment that the diploma is received, a surge of energy initiated by a newfound sovereignty course through their veins.

It makes sense though. You’re a youngblood with high hopes and dreams, you’re seeing the world beyond the books for the first time. You don’t have a curfew, homework, or a parent to answer to.

All of this rush of adrenaline doubles that moment you get employed because job equals money equals “add-to-cart”, right?

For a moment, there is harmony in your cash-ins and cash out. But at one point, maybe on the day when your employer can’t give your salary on time or when somebody gets sick, you’ll realize that you do not have a cent in the old piggy bank. Then, the reality of adulthood sets in. It’s time to decrease the “YOLO” and start saving.

Here are some tips money-saving (and maybe even earning) tips for all our fresh graduates out there:

1)   Invest

While having saved money in your account is good, placing them in good investment is better. Rather than letting them just stay in your account until your next impulsive buy, why not make them do the earning for you? Aside from insurance companies, some banks provide services on investments wherein you can start small, just enough for the entry-level salary.

2)   Wants and needs

Do you need another pair of shoes for work? My Economics professor once told the class, “If you can distinguish your wants from your needs, then saving is easier.” and that is financial wisdom I still hold today.

Needs which are your basic food and drinks, toiletries, clothes.

Wants are your 5-star meals with a bottle of champagne, Jeju face masks, and plain, white shirts that cost five digits.

Always reflect before you buy: “Need or want?”

3)   Allocate

Once you fully recognize your needs, you need to be very familiar with your cash flow and where to place them. It is important to list down the daily, weekly, and monthly expenses so setting a budget is easier.

4)    Something on the side

If you have an 8-hour job, especially one that keeps your weekends open, I would encourage having a sideline. Something non-committal, that you can do from the comfort of your home and that will take only a few hours of your time. It can be writing, copyreading, editing pictures, translating, even online tutorials.

There are such jobs out there.

Once you receive your pay, keep it safe. Don’t spend it. That’s your side hustle money.

When you’re a young investor, it doesn’t hurt to earn a bit more cash.

5)   Be wary of your circle

Friends and workmates are a great influence even in young adulthood and, sometimes, when one of them declares a night out or a trip to somewhere pricey, it’s difficult to say no.

There’s nothing wrong if your friends have more money than you, just as there’s nothing wrong if you have less money than your friends. But it’s important to remember at which part of the spectrum you are, and not get carried away. Also, be mature enough to not be insecure about the financial differences that you feel the need to spend money like them to achieve validation.

Learn to decline when it no longer hits your budget. If your friends are really good people, they’ll respect that.

6)   Splurge money

As contradicting as it is, it’s also important to spoil yourself every once in a while.

Have “splurge piggy bank” and invest a fixed portion of your savings to it.

It can be money for a concert happening in a few weeks or a monthly shopping spree/fancy dinner dates for yourself.

The point is, you have to spend money on you too. Sometimes, we impulse buy because we’ve been deprived for so long. So, it’s just better to just have a controlled source of cash for an “I deserve this” splurge. Just make sure that the “I deserve this” days aren’t every day.

7.) Get insurance early.

If you buy permanent life insurance early, this gives you a longer period of time to put money into the insurance plan and also allows you to draw interest on your money for a longer period of time. We help expats in Hong Kong find the best personal insurance. Get in touch with us today.

8Apr

Updating Your Health Insurance

As we go through different phases of our lives, so do our needs for health insurance cover. Does your current plan still cover your needs or are there parts of the policy that are not longer needed?

Health insurance covers must also adjust to the rest of your family member’s needs which is why it’s important to check with your provider every two years.

Here are questions you should ask when reviewing your policy:

1. Is my policy limit enough to cover my needs and my supplementary? There are policies that offer unlimited annual policy offers.

2. Do you have plans of moving or traveling more frequently? This means you might need a health insurance policy that covers the places you will be traveling. There are international health insurance covers that follow you wherever you are and plans that excludes the US or UK.

3. If you’re married and have a growing family, is your insurance plan able to adapt to maternity and child needs?

4. Do you need to add a policy for pre-existing, mental, hereditary, congenital and chronic conditions?

5. If you have a policy taken care by your current employer, you also need to evaluate if you’ll need a separate private medical insurance if there are plans of changing jobs. Check if the company health insurance covers for family members or for chronic diseases. If you have special medical needs and your company insurance does not cater to its treatment, an international health insurance cover should be able to take care of what’s lacking.

AS AN EXPAT, CONSIDER INTERNATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE

This health insurance policy is generally comprehensive and can cover maternity and cancer treatment. It all depends on your needs as well as your family’s. Village Insurance Direct helps expat find affordable and complete international health insurance from established providers in Hong Kong.

As an expat, you need to foresee if you will be moving in the next years and having international health insurance that follows you wherever you will give you peace of mind in situations where a local hospital may be unable to provide for your needs. The advantage of having this type of insurance is also having local service from your provider’s customer support so you know exactly what your policy can cover.

Ask your insurance provider about your current policy. It is also crucial that you do your own research especially if you’re paying a substantial amount for medical insurance you yourself and your family.

13Sep

Is C-section the way to go?

In this day and age, Hong Kong stands strong in offering a lot more than tourist attractions and sparkling history. On par with many first-class countries, it prides itself with an excellent healthcare system. For both its residents and expats alike, it has become the place of choice for maternity and childbirth, owing to the structure in its services.

The Hong Kong health system, like many others, is categorized into two: the public and private sectors.

Being a Hong Kong resident with an “identity card” provides you with numerous benefits, including full utilization of their public health system.

Some say that it gets trickier and more complicated when it comes to foreigners, but there’s always no reason to feel lost and left out. Local or not, there’s nothing a good preparation can’t solve.

Adjusting to a childbirth in a foreign country is the first step. As mothers near their delivery, the next logical step is to figure out whether a C-section or classic delivery setup is the way to go.

Crunching the hard digits

In general, the World Health Organization suggests a 10-15% rate in C-section deliveries vis-à-vis a country’s healthcare status.  Since last year, numbers of C-section deliveries have been steadily increasing around the world. Currently, the Dominican Republic holds the top spot with 56.4%. According to this October 2018 research, Hong Kong currently has a Caesarian birth rate of 35%. It stands toe-to-toe with other countries like Turkey and Brazil, who each report rates of over 45%.

The good versus the bad

It is the expectant mother’s choice as to how she wants to have her baby delivered. However, in some cases, it is the doctor’s call whether to perform the surgery or not, particularly when the necessity arises in the situation.

C section deliveries are beneficial for mothers who are unable to bear the stress of the labor process. It is also recommended if more than one baby will be delivered. The procedure helps minimize the risk of having the baby contract a disease from passing through the vaginal area.

However, it also offers a balanced number of downsides. Mothers who opted for the surgical process tend to stay longer in the hospital for recuperation. There is an increased risk of pain or infection following the surgery and soreness is almost guaranteed. Staggering levels of blood loss may also provide low levels of Hemoglobin.

The rates

As an invasive procedure, C-section deliveries generally cost way more than vaginal births. Rates within Hong Kong vary with different hospitals, ranging from standard HK$ 17,000 to pricey lengths such as HK$ 141, 000 for high-tier private hospitals. As of June 2018, for example, the fee for a C-section surgery in St. Paul’s Hospital in Causeway Bay starts at HK$ 18,000 versus their fee for a vaginal birth which starts at HK$ 15, 000.

Ultimately, the choice rests upon the mother’s shoulders. There may be slight differences between private or public hospital settings but one thing remains the same: This is Hong Kong, and both options carry a high standard when it comes to medical care.

Village Insurance Direct provides expats in Hong Kong with health insurance that covers maternity expenses. Contact us for more information.

5Jul

Complications in Childbirth: Why you need maternity insurance

The most awaited moment in pregnancy is, of course, the birth. After nine, gruelling months of nonstop, odd cravings, bloating, back pain, and weight gain, we are finally going to see the little bundle of joy that will make it all worth it.

However, birth is just as dangerous as the first three months of pregnancy, if not, riskier. The lives of two people or more (in cases of multiples) are on the line.  Which is why being well-informed and readily prepared is imperative to assure a safe transition from womb to the outside world for the baby, and lessen postpartum complications for the mother.

With that said, here are some of the most common causes of mortality or morbidity for mother and child that you can inquire to your physician during your next visit.

Complications of the baby

According to the World Health Organization, 80% of global neonatal deaths are from preterm birth complications, newborn infections, and perinatal asphyxia.

“Preemies”—premature babies—are born before the 37th week of gestation and are therefore not yet fully equipped ready for the outside world.  One of the most monitored organs in preemies are the lungs. Premature lungs can lead to Respiratory Distress Syndrome which causes harsh and difficulty in breathing.  It can also lead to apnea, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and infections such as pneumonia. The most common treatment is the use of a ventilator with careful monitoring, and, in cases of infections, antibiotics.

Aside from pneumonia, newborn infections can lead to meningitis and conjunctivitis. Cases, where minor infections are not treated immediately, can also lead to neonatal sepsis.

Perinatal asphyxia is the lack of blood flow or gas exchange to or from the fetus in the period immediately before, during, or after the birth process, which can result in systemic and neurologic consequences.  It can be due to compromised maternal hemodynamics, uterine conditions, placenta and umbilical cord, and infection. Due to lack of access, developing countries have 10 times higher incidences of perinatal asphyxiation as opposed to developed countries.

Complications of the mother

There is one grim saying that I often hear whenever I talk with doctors: “When a mother gives birth, one foot is in the grave.”

As of 2018, approximately 830 women die of childbirth every day, 99% of which are from developing countries. They are usually due to pregnancy and most are preventable or treatable.

Severe bleeding after childbirth, infections after childbirth, and high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia) are some of the major complications that account for most of all maternal deaths.

Postpartum bleeding—severe bleeding after birth postpartum bleeding—accounts for at least 27% of maternal deaths and is usually caused by the inability of the uterus to contract such as in cases of uterine atony.

Mothers are more prone to infections in cases of cesarean sections and prolonged labour since more is exposed in a longer amount of time. Moreover, it can occur if even just one of the medical staff does not practice proper antiseptic techniques and if their tools are not properly sterilized.

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that can occur during pregnancy which involves elevated blood pressure and protein in the urine. If not managed, it can lead to eclampsia which manifests as seizures. The exact cause of the condition is not yet known.

The birth of a child is a miracle unlike any other. For a mother and her newborn to hold each other after nine months of being “so close, yet so far” is a sensation unlike any other. Losing a child before its life even begins is one of the biggest heartbreaks one can imagine, and losing a mother before knowing her is just as painful.

All of the conditions presented above can be prevented by proper medical care by proficient and supervised medical personnel, proper medical equipment and supplies, and a well-thought-of birth plan. So, read, ask, and plan ahead. The mixture of a mother’s laugh and a baby’s coos is worth it in the end. Most importantly, be prepared.

Find a health insurance cover that will take care of the bills in case the worst happens.

 

SOURCES:

14Nov

Successful out-of-country childbirth

Giving birth in a different country requires plenty of preparation. Expats living abroad with their families need to ensure that there is a system is in place for a safe delivery to avoid unexpected expenses and inconveniences during such an intense period.

You can read more about the expense side of childbirth in our blog Expecting a Baby in Hong Kong.

The one plan to rule them all

“The best offence is a good defence” is the key to avoid as many of possible worst case scenarios. At this point, your answer to medical emergencies should always be preparedness.

The most crucial first step is to have a birth plan drafted out at the start of your pregnancy. This includes:

  • Getting to know your hospital of choice ahead of time
  • Familiarizing yourself with your new doctor
  • Knowing what you are looking for is a hospital

Hong Kong has one of the best healthcare systems in Asia and finding a hospital that suits your needs is relatively easy for many expats. Public and private hospitals provide excellent services so it’s usually a matter of preference and expense when it’s time to decide.

Choose your obstetrician wisely. If you have health insurance that covers pregnancy and childbirth, double check to see if they cover the hospital that you’ve chosen. Check the hospital’s proximity to your home and find alternative routes for different traffic conditions.

Common Complications

We do what we can to make sure the child is in good health during pregnancy. However, there is always the possibility of complications. Common issues to prepare for include:

  • Umbilical cord issues
  • Perineal lacerations
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate
  • Amniotic cavity problems
  • Failure to progress

C-section birth may be required during these situations and making sure you’re financially covered for this major operation is also a crucial part of the birth plan. Check with your expat health insurance provider if they cover this emergency expense.

On new territory

Pregnancy and childbirth make one of the most intimate and unforgettable experiences of life. The logistics leading up to them could be just as complicated as it is memorable, but it’s all worth it in the end.

We help expats find the best health insurance that covers maternity in Hong Kong. Get in touch with us for inquiries.