What are the Most Common Health Issues for Men in Singapore?

Singapore is known as one of the most modernised cities in Asia, with some of the best health care facilities in the world. With both private and public hospitals to shoulder the burden, you never really has to wait long to see a doctor in the city, and largely because of this the average life expectancy in Singapore is the fourth highest in the world. Despite the fact that, on the whole, Singapore is a healthy city, there are always going to be health issues that we need to be aware of, especially among men – who have a tendency to avoid going to see a doctor when sick.

Get those check ups, men.

While it can be easy to shrug off that marking on your foot as simply a mole, or that ignoring that niggling football injury that just won’t heal, there are many specific health issues facing men in Singapore, particularly among expats. Here are six of the most common…

#1- Heart disease

The Singapore Heart Foundation states that cardiovascular disease was the cause of death for just over 30 percent of men in Singapore in 2013. According to the MOH (Ministry of Health in Singapore) Ischaemic heart diseases were the third most common cause of death in 2013. These figures, while morbid, show that this is a serious issue faced by all, including expat men.

Put simply, the lifestyle many of us lead in Singapore – long hours at work, poor diet, lack of exercise, weight gain, stress – makes us prime candidates for heart disease. If you want to be able to bro-down with the best of them for years to come, you need to start taking care of your heart today. Take steps to exercise more, eat better, reduce your stress, and above all talk to your doctor on a regular basis.

If you are unsure as to where you should start, check out the Prevention section of the Singapore Heart Foundation website. There are some great tips there on how to get started and how to lead a “heart healthy” lifestyle.

#2- Colorectal cancer

In a National Disease Registries Report published by Singapore in 2014, colorectal cancer was the most common type of cancer affecting men in Singapore with a rate of nearly 5,000 cases in males reported in between 2009 and 2013. Usually found in the upper part of your colon, or even in the large intestine, this type of cancer usually is seen in those past mid-life.

According to experts, the best way to limit your chances of developing colorectal cancer is to eat less fatty food, cut back smoking and drinking, and, above all else, get screened on a regular basis – once a year for men over 50 and once every two years for men below 40. If you are above 50 and a permanent resident of Singapore, your yearly screening can be done for free. Visit the Singapore Cancer Society site to learn more.

While this form of cancer is usually found in men over 40, there is a hereditary version of colorectal cancer that can develop in men as early as 20. If someone in your family has had it before, you should start being screened every year in your early 20s.

While serious, there is some good news: If caught early, your chances of beating this cancer are high. The best defence is good offence when it comes to this type of cancer.

#3- Hypertension

After cancer, pneumonia and heart disease, Cerebrovascular diseases, of which hypertension is the leading cause, are the fourth most common cause of death in Singapore with 8.9 percent of all deaths in 2013 being attributed to them.Post

Statistics published by the MOH highlight that anywhere between 23 and 27 percent of people in Singapore currently have hypertension, or are showing signs of increased blood pressure. With higher blood pressure comes higher chances of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Unfortunately, expats, especially those who have just moved to Singapore, are likely to lead a life that could increase hypertension. From the pressures of moving to new jobs, to a change in lifestyle and diet, many simply don’t lead the most healthy of lives, which can lead to elevated blood pressure and even severe hypertension.

Luckily for many men, high blood pressure is fairly simple to reduce through better diet, exercise, and sometimes prescription drugs. As with other types of disease, this requires regular checkups and life changes to manage, therefore it would be a good idea to talk to a physician about what you can do to manage it. If your blood pressure is high to very high, talk to your physician before instigating any changes to your current lifestyle.

#4- Gout

Often called the “Rich man’s disease” or Niao Suan if you have been to a traditional Chinese practitioner, Gout is almost a uniquely male disease. According to an article published by SingHealth, the average prevalence of gout in Singapore is around 4.1 percent, with over 90 percent of sufferers being male.

This form of arthritis, brought about due to high consumption of alcohol and red meat, often affects men over 50 who are overweight and includes symptoms like hot, searing pain in the toes, and may even hinder ones movement.

As an expat, long days at the office and then nights out at the bar likely aren’t doing wonders to your chances of contracting gout. That being said, reducing your alcohol and meat intake and increasing exercise should go a long way in helping reduce your chances of getting gout.

#5- Communicable diseases

From the common cold to pneumonia to more serious diseases Hand Foot and Mouth disease, communicable diseases are on the rise in Singapore. While the chance of death from many of these diseases is quite low, Singapore’s unique layout and population density make it a hot-bed for the spread of these diseases.

As a chap, it can be tempting to think you won’t be affected by these types of diseases, but there is always a chance. As an expat, especially a new one to the city or who travels a lot, there is a good chance that you will pick more of the diseases going around. This means more time off work, and more money spent on healthcare. Avoiding many of the bugs going around town is often impossible, but eating healthy, getting exercise and washing your hands as often as possible are a great way to minimise the chances of getting sick.

#6- Depression

Despite what many of us may think, depression is more prevalent in Singapore than many would like to admit. In a survey conducted by the Singapore National Mental Health organization, the lifetime prevalence of depression in adults in the city is thought to be around 6.3 percent. While this may not seem like a high number at first glance, take into account the fact that up to 50 percent of cases don’t go reported or treated.

As a man, dealing with depression, or even recognising it, can be hard. It often feels like admitting a strong weakness that nobody needs to know about. The truth is, depression is serious and anyone who is feeling depressed should talk to a doctor about it. If you would like to learn more about depression among expats in Singapore, have a read of our recent article here.

Don’t forget…

Any health problems in Singapore will usually require a visit to the doctor. While the city has great health care facilities, seeing a doctor can get quite expensive, especially if you go through the private system.

Credit: Expat Living SG