Thriving on your doorstep: Staying healthy in Dubai

Recognised as a global business hub, Dubai – one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates – is an exciting destination for expats. As the emirate owes a major part of its success to trade and tourism, there are plenty of international firms that have opened offices in this vibrant city, and business opportunities in Dubai are still increasing. Dubai is host to expats from all over the world.

Looking after your family’s health in Dubai

Before you relocate, it's always a good idea to visit your local health care practitioner and ensure your vaccinations are up to date. Hospitals and medical care are good in Dubai. Figures published in 2000 by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that Dubai is ranked 27th in the world for its health care provision. By comparison, the UK is 26th and the U.S. is 37th. However, medical insurance is a legal necessity for residents in the emirate, as it is in Abu Dhabi. In addition, medical bills can prove costly if you’re not protected.

Coping with the heat

From the moment you step off the plane you’ll be aware of Dubai’s extreme heat. There are two weather seasons in the UAE: hot, from May to September, when temperatures can reach an astronomical 50 degrees centigrade; and temperate, around 28 degrees centigrade, from October to April.

Local nutritionist and dietician, Mrs Mariam Saleh suggests that the best way to cope with Dubai's extreme heat is to rehydrate. Mrs Saleh says, 'Water has a direct role in maintaining body temperature besides the essential physiologic and metabolic functions. Water is the best hydrating fluid – 6 to 8 cups should be enough – but you should take more with increased amounts of exercise and sweating.'

You should also take time to acclimatise yourself to the heat. A healthy body can adjust to an extreme climate in two weeks by becoming "outdoor acclimatised". Mrs Saleh explains, 'studies show that going outside and getting used to the heat can promote physiological changes to lower the heat strain, especially if you're planning to exercise outdoors.'

Only visit the beach in the early morning or evening and protect your feet from scorching sand by wearing sandals or flip-flops. In other words, if the locals don't go out in the midday sun, neither should you.

Stay healthy – eat well

Just because you've moved overseas, you won't necessarily have to change your diet. Global ingredients, probiotics and other healthy drinks are available in Dubai, and Mrs Saleh suggests these are important for maintaining the body’s calcium and vitamin D levels. Unusually, even though Dubai is full of sunshine – a natural source of vitamin D – because so many try to avoid its scorching rays, vitamin D deficiency is prevalent throughout the emirate.

Balancing your diet

Eating a balanced diet is a bit like a profit and loss balance sheet. Fruit, vegetables, and lean meats can all go on the body’s profit side, while fatty foods and a constant diet of snacks high in salt will cause long term harm to your body. From a nutritionist’s point of view, Mrs Saleh’s advice is to 'eat a variety of foods to ensure nutrient adequacy, including lean proteins coming from chicken and fish. Fish is abundant and purchased fresh in Dubai with easy and friendly access to local fish markets.'

Use of organic fruit and vegetables is on the increase in Dubai, and you’ll soon find that most local shops and markets stock wonderful varieties, all good for your health. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has invested heavily in hydroponics (a method of growing plants in an aquatic-based environment ) in recent years, resulting a whole range of vegetables, crops and fruit that can be sourced throughout Dubai.

Mrs Saleh is a keen advocate of promoting the health of the family through its diet. 'Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet planning. Purchase locally produced food that is usually fresh and in season, with less preservatives and environmentally sustainable. Organically grown fruits and vegetables are more and more available in Dubai from local farms. Opt for organic produce wherever possible as it's higher in antioxidants and phenols compared to non-organic products, which help fight and prevent certain chronic diseases.'

Obviously, if a member of your family has a high temperature or is displaying other signs of serious illness, then it's time to call in the medical professionals, but by taking advantage of local produce and taking advantage of locally sourced produced you'll be ensuring your family's general health standards are maintained.

If you're moving to Dubai and want to discuss your private medical insurance options, you can contact our friendly team of consultants, who'll be able to offer you assistance. 

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