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Winter is coming: How to stay happy and healthy

It's easy to enjoy the summer when living in Europe. Warm days and late sunsets allow plenty of time to socialise, exercise and enjoy yourself. The colder months, however, are a slightly different proposition.

Winter is coming: How to stay happy and healthy
A jog a day: Regular walking or jogging not only increases fitness, but reduces your chances of suffering from seasonal illnesses. Photo: Getty Images

Autumn and winter mean shorter days, colder nights and often a range of health challenges. Not only are seasonal colds and flu circulating, but low temperatures and light levels make it more difficult to keep in shape, and moods dip. 

Together with international health insurance broker ASN, we identify proven ways in which you can stay fit, healthy and happy as the year draws to a close. 

Cold, coughs and flus – oh my! 

Avoiding the cold and flus that come with the cold weather can be difficult, but there are some things that you can do to minimise the risk, that go beyond washing your hands or wearing a mask. 

Clinical studies across the globe have demonstrated that regularly taking vitamin C, echinacea and (most importantly) zinc may boost the immune system’s defences, and in some cases prevent illness. 

For those with health issues such as hypertension, pre-existing respiratory or heart disease, seasonal viruses can be devastating. In these cases, doctors recommend a yearly flu vaccine. These protect against the yearly dominant strains and can vastly reduce the severity of illness, should you get sick. 

As Giovanni Bretti from ASN Customer Care tells us, “The good thing about international health insurance is that you can include or exclude benefits such as vaccinations and specialised respiratory care, tailored to your needs.”

ASN gives you the advice you need to get the best health insurance coverage possible, anywhere, any time

Ski, skate, cycle or spin

Of course, we know that you can minimise your odds of getting seriously ill by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a good level of fitness – but how do you keep that up when it’s dark and cold outside? 

Majuran Panchalingam, an International Insurance Consultant from ASN shares some tips: “When it starts to get cold outside, I mainly train indoors. Furthermore, I make everything ready the evening before. Skipping training becomes more difficult when I have already packed my training things.”

Also, something as simple as installing a free pedometer on your smartphone can help. Studies demonstrated it can increase average daily physical exercise by around 20 percent.

For those with a competitive streak, depending on which app you choose, you can receive detailed analysis on your walks or runs, including distance, speed and elevation.

An increasing number of apps also allow you to virtually ‘walk’ a set distance, such as the length of the Great Wall of China. Some even award a real medal or certificate upon completion. 

Regular exercise can also help prevent injury to muscles and joints but should you get hurt in an accident, such as slipping on an icy pavement, it’s important to seek medical assistance and specialised help as soon as you can. Some health insurance policies, like those arranged by ASN, will even give you free access to physiotherapists and other physical specialists. 

By dealing with problems as they occur, you can not only avoid more invasive treatment and possible mobility issues but also save on healthcare costs. Who doesn’t want that? 

ASN’s network of specialists can get you back on your feet after an accident or injury

Autumn splendour: Taking advantage of cool, dry weather to get outside and socialise with friends is an important part of staying healthy. Photo: Getty Images

Get out of the gloom 

The colder months don’t just impact physical health – they can have a remarkable effect on mental health as well. 

This is for a complex range of reasons. Some scientists have linked shorter days and longer nights to decreased serotonin production in the brain, while others have suggested it provokes changes in our circadian rhythms – our routines of wakefulness and sleep. Rather than be social and get out, we just want to sleep. 

What has been shown to work are two things: getting outside during the daylight hours, and the regular use of a sun lamp, available in many shops. Both can have the effect of fooling the brain into proceeding as normal, and avoiding a low mood. 

Internationals are especially susceptible to poorer mental health in the colder months, as they might find themselves isolated while those around them are celebrating the holiday season. It’s important to stay connected and socialise when possible. Many forums and websites for internationals regularly hold events to facilitate social interaction and this can be a great way to stay connected and make new friends.

If you do find yourself experiencing a persistent low mood, speaking to someone about the challenges you’re facing and receiving the proper support can help. 

Mental health therapies are usually covered in standard international health insurance plans. If you are working with a broker, such as ASN, they will do their best to support customers in their preferred language to find out what is covered and what kind of possibilities there are to find peace of mind again.

The best investment in your health

One of the best things an international living abroad can do to safeguard their health throughout the year, and especially in the darker months, is to consider an international health insurance policy. 

Such policies, like those brokered by ASN, give 24-7 access to a global network of doctors, specialists and other healthcare professionals who can provide the personal care you need, when you need it. Not only that, but if you need to be transported to your home country for specialised care, this may be covered by an international health insurance policy. 

These policies often also include coverage for preventative care, to help you avoid illness and mitigate conditions before they become chronic. 

Just as consistent exercise, taking advantage of social activities, and getting yearly flu shots are investments in your health through autumn and winter, an international health insurance policy can ensure you can make the most of your life abroad. 

Find out more about how ASN provides peace of mind for internationals 

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HEALTH

How to get prescription medicines in Denmark

Are prescription drugs covered by Danish national healthcare? It's complicated.

How to get prescription medicines in Denmark

How prescriptions work in Denmark

You’ve seen your doctor and been given a prescription. Now what? 

Once your doctor inputs the details of your prescription into the Danish health system, your data is available to any pharmacy in the country with a quick scan of your yellow health card. 

All pharmacies in Denmark charge the same price for each medication, so there’s no need to shop around or commit to a single ‘home’ pharmacy — you can just swing into whichever is most convenient for you that day. 

There are also online pharmacies that can fill your prescriptions and deliver them by courier or mail, or arrange for pickup at a pharmacy or another location. Remember to only purchase from websites with the green EU logo, according to the Danish Medicines Agency. 

READ ALSO: What happens if you lose your Danish yellow health insurance card? 

Do you have to pay for prescription medicines in Denmark? 

Mostly, yes — as a rule, prescription medicines aren’t covered by the national healthcare system until you reach certain spending thresholds for the year. At that time, discounts will be applied to your future prescription medicine purchases based on how much you’ve already spent. 

The scheme is called ‘reimbursement,’ which can be slightly misleading — the discounts are applied at the pharmacy, so you don’t have to pay up front and wait for the Danish Medicine Agency to cut you a check. 

Your progress toward the reimbursement thresholds is tracked automatically by the Central Reimbursement Register (abbreviated CTR in Danish), which sums up purchases of reimbursable medications associated with your yellow card. Your current CTR total is given on your receipt from the pharmacy after you purchase a medication, and you can also track your spending on reimbursable medications here

Reimbursable prescription medications purchased in other EU/EEA countries can count toward your CTR. If you’ve bought prescriptions abroad, fill out this form to be reimbursed based on the price of the medicine in Denmark. 

READ MORE: Why does it take so long in Denmark to see a psychologist or therapist? 

What are the reimbursement thresholds for 2022 for adult patients? 

If you’re over 18, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for your first 1,020 kroner of prescription medications. 

Once you’ve spent 1,020 kroner, you’ll receive a 50 percent reimbursement on future reimbursable purchases, and your copay will be 50 percent. That increases to a 75 percent reimbursement after your CTR total hits 1,705 kroner (with a copay of 25 percent) and an 85 percent reimbursement (and copay of 15 percent) for CTR totals above 3,700. 

Remember, your CTR total is calculated by the price of the medications before the reimbursement is applied. (Even though you’ve only paid 50 percent of the cost of medications after you hit the first reimbursement threshold, the full price of the medication is added to your CTR total.)

After your CTR total reaches 20,091 kroner, you’ll receive 100 percent reimbursement on future medications.

Taken together, that means the most you can pay out of pocket for prescription medications in Denmark in 2022 is 4,320 kroner.

The Danish Medicines Agency provides a chart of the thresholds and an example patient’s yearly spending history and reimbursements here. 

READ ALSO: Are you eligible for Danish national healthcare while your residence permit is processing? 

What about reimbursements for children’s medications? 

For patients under 18, all applicable prescriptions have a minimum 60 percent reimbursement rate. That gets bumped up to 75 percent after a CTR total of 1,705 kroner, 85 percent after 3,700 kroner, and 100 percent after 24,628 kroner. 

Just like for adults, the maximum out-of-pocket costs for a child’s prescriptions in a year is 4,320 kroner. 

What if I know I’ll need more than 20,000 kroner of medications? 

If you have chronic conditions or a major health challenge and can tell at the beginning of the year that you’ll hit the CTR maximum, you can apply for an installment plan. 

Pick the pharmacy most convenient for you and request an installment plan — you’ll be able to pay the maximum yearly copay of 4,320 kroner in 12 monthly installments of 360 kroner. 

Generic versus name-brand drugs and reimbursement 

Different drugs with the same active ingredients are called synonymous — generally, if your doctor prescribes a name-brand drug and there’s a less expensive synonymous drug, your pharmacist will give you the option to choose. 

If you stick with the more expensive name-brand drug, you’re responsible for the cost difference and only the price of the generic drug will be added to your CTR total. 

There are sometimes good reasons for choosing a more expensive synonymous drug — if, for instance, you’re allergic to some of the added ingredients in the generic form, your doctor can apply for increased reimbursement on your behalf. 

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