Life in Spain

What I Learned from my First Medical Checkup in Tenerife

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I have been in Spain for 18 months and my health has improved from the first grasp of air at Málaga airport. I have felt fine all the time so no need for any doctor. But a week ago, I decided to take a routine checkup and the result gave me a warning. 

Our first base in Spain was in Andalucia province where we had our first application for registration at the Social Security to avail of the health care provided by the state-run Servicio Andaluz de Salud. After the registration, the health cards were sent to us by mail and we were assigned a family doctor.

The online appointment system is easy. When my husband had to renew a prescription, he just booked a time online. Our doctor didn’t speak English so I went with him and could start to practice my Spanish 🙂 No doctor’s fees, healthcare is free. All we had to do was go to the nearest Farmacia, show the health card to get the medicine, and pay a very small amount because the medicines are largely subsidized.

Then we moved to Tenerife, Canary Islands, another region of Spain.  We went to the Social Security office of our new town and registered there.  We visited the health center, got our new cards, and selected our new family doctor. Easy and non-bureaucratic. My dream is that this system will be implemented in my home country so all Filipinos can get the same service I avail from here.

I am still struggling with the language so it was nice to discover that our new doctor speaks English. I also appreciate that there was no time pressure. He listened carefully and explained in detail the routine procedure he wanted me to undergo. He booked a time for me to take blood and urine tests and a visit to a gynecologist. And told me to come back to him after some weeks to discuss the results.

When I returned, all tests were fine except for one that no doctors in the Philippines have mentioned for me before. My iodine level is low and that is not good. It’s a common problem also in the Philippines and I remember from my time in Kiwanis that we distributed iodized rice during our outreach programs. And now, I fully understood the impact of it. Iodine deficiency can lead to enlargement of the thyroid and to mental retardation in infants and children whose mothers were iodine deficient during pregnancy. It is also dangerous for women later in life.

The doctor told me that I need to increase my iodine intake because of the dangers associated with the lack of it. Iodine is an element that is needed for the production of thyroid hormone.  The thyroid hormones are essential to the proper development and differentiation of all cells of the human body. It is important for metabolism and many other important functions. The body does not make iodine, so it should be an essential part of our diet.

I told him that I am eating healthy, but he said that the amount of iodine in plant-based food depends on the amount of its presence in the soil. I told him I eat sea-foods too especially fish, but he said to make sure it is sourced directly from the sea and unprocessed. He also told me to use iodized salt, eat mangoes, and fresh fishes. Less stress and exercise are also helpful.

I am writing this because many of us might have a low iodine level without knowing it. Ask your doctor next time to check it. It can prevent you from some very unpleasant health problems in the future. Prevention is better than cure.

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