Among all the stresses of modern life, frequent flying is something we need to worry about. Olivia Falcon explains why, and tests the world’s most futuristic medical check-ups for travellers.
For most of us, the thrill of travel trumps the trials; those red, itchy eyes are quickly forgotten when we feel that blast of cool alpine air as we step off the plane. But have you ever stopped to consider the long-term effects that taking a flight might have on your health? If you were aware there was a certain amount of radiation involved in flying, you might be slightly uncomfortable. Especially, if you were to discover that the higher and closer you fly to the North Pole, the greater is your exposure to cosmic rays. To put this into context: a return trip from London to Beijing easily exceeds the 100-microsievert dose from a chest X-ray. While not a problem for most travellers, it’s definitely something frequent flyers should be aware of. And you might also think twice about the window seat if you knew there was a greater risk from UVA rays, which age skin and cause premature wrinkling. Throw in a cabin humidity level of about 10 percent compared to the 50 our bodies need, airplane food loaded with sugar and salt to compensate for the fact that altitude dulls our sense of taste, and a few glasses of wine to steady your nerves, and you’re heading towards Gobi Desert levels of dehydration. This raises blood pressure, increases the risk of DVT (deep-vein thrombosis) and clots, and causes problems for those with respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Thanks to low-cost airlines and globalisation, we’re all jet setters now, and a new type of wellness service is on the rise to counteract the corrosive effects of our adrenalin-charged lifestyles. Challenging old thinking that you only need to see a doctor when you’re ill, health concierge services are sprouting around the world wanting to work their magic and supercharge your body. Employing cutting-edge tests to microanalyse your lifestyle and genetic predispositions, the doctors at these clinics give you a health strategy tailored to balance the fact that you ping-pong across the globe on business trips every month or juggle a gaggle of children with a 24/7 career. Or both.
So who do you go see and get a healthy leg-up? If you’re prepared to risk the effects of cosmic rays, take a flight to South Korea. You can join a consortium of wealthy Russians, Chinese and a handful of clued-in Americans at the Chaum Centre (http://en.chaum.net) in Seoul. Part hospital, part spa, Chaum offers one of the world’s most powerful health checks. The top-to-toe medicals, which include DNA blood screenings to check for genetic mutations and a host of investigations with the latest equipment, including MRIs and the newest CT scans (with the lowest dose of radiation, obviously), take five to six hours to complete.
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