Posted on Mar 16, 2015 by Alex Nellist
As an expat living in, or considering, Asia, you are probably aware of the fact that most countries have adequate to excellent health facilities, with many hospitals that cater to foreigners. While you may have access to great health care, actually seeing a doctor is another matter, especially for men who tend avoid seeking medical care.
While it may seem like a good idea to ignore that constant headache, upset stomach, or niggling pain from an old football injury, this could have potentially large negative influences on your overall health. While there are a near limitless number of potential health issues facing men out there, there are five expat males in Asia should be aware of:
1. Colorectal cancer
Why colorectal cancer? In numerous countries in Asia it is one of the most common types of cancer affecting men. For example in Hong Kong, colorectal cancer represented 18% of all new cancer cases in 2012 (second overall), while in Singapore it was the most common type of cancer with 17% of all cancer diagnoses between 2009 and 2013 being colorectal. 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, and is more common in men than women.
Cancer experts recommend that one of the most efficient ways to limit your chances of developing this type of cancer is to eliminate, or at the very least cut back, smoking, alcohol, red meat, and fatty foods from the diet. It would also be beneficial to lose weight - if you have are overweight. Cutting certain foods and losing weight won’t prevent this type of cancer however, so it would be a good idea to visit your doctor for a colorectal screening on a regular basis - once every year for men over 50, and once every two years for men 35-50.
If someone in your family has had colorectal cancer before, you should be aware that there is a variant of this type of cancer that is hereditary and can develop in men as young as 20. It is therefore recommended that you get screened on a yearly basis if this cancer runs in your family.
Despite the high diagnoses rates, there is good news: If caught early enough, your chances of beating it are high to very high. Therefore, regular screenings and checkups are a good idea.
2. Heart disease
According to a report published on the NCBI (National Center for Biological Information) in the US, over half of all deaths related to Cardiovascular disease occur in Asia. In fact, most countries in the region list this as one of the most common cause of death. For example, in 2010, it was the second most common cause of death in Thailand, and in China (according to the CDC).
Unfortunately, the lifestyle many expats lead in Asia, especially in the larger cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Shanghai, etc. If you find yourself working long hours, drinking excessively, eating poorly, and not exercising enough, you likely are putting yourself at an elevated risk for heart disease. To mitigate this, you should make efforts now to cut back on alcohol, stress, and poor diet, while exercising more and going to the doctor on a regular basis for checkups.
Unsure of where to start? We strongly recommend starting by searching for your local heart disease website. Many cities have centers with websites that offer a wealth of information about heart disease and where you can seek treatment.
In most countries in Asia, cerebrovascular disease is among the top five causes of death. For example, in Singapore it is the fourth most common cause of death (according to the Ministry of Health website for Singapore), while it is third most common in Thailand (according to the CDC). One of the most common contributors to cerebrovascular disease is hypertension.
Interestingly enough, there are a number of studies out there - including one from the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong in 2012 - that have found that only half of all cases of hypertension are ever diagnosed, with half of those seeking treatment, and half of those who seek treatment attaining normal blood pressure levels. These figures indicate that hypertension poses a serious threat.
The reason this is such a threat is that people living with high blood pressure have higher chances of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and more. Many expats, especially those who have recently moved to Asia, lead a lifestyle that could increase hypertension. From the pressures of a new job, to a new lifestyle, to changes in diet, some expats simply don’t lead the most healthy of lives, which could lead to elevated blood pressure and other chronic conditions.
That being said, if you are willing to work on it, hypertension can be managed or even reduced through a good diet, lots of exercise, and sometimes prescription drugs. As with the other health issues on this list, this chronic condition requires regular checkups and life changes if you are to manage it effectively. If you do have hypertension, Pacific Prime strongly recommends talking to your doctor about ways you can manage it before you implement any life changes.
4. Communicable diseases
With many countries in Asia having a dense population, communicable diseases are always a threat. Take for example the flu season in Hong Kong this year which has already seen over 80 deaths, or the on-going H7N9 threat in China, and these diseases can pose a problem even for the most healthy men.
While your chances of actually dying from these diseases, if you are a healthy male, are slim, getting sick with one of these will likely lead to time off work and more money spent on health care. This is especially true if you are already not leading the most healthy of lifestyles, have chronic diseases like asthma, or live in a densely populated area like Tokyo or Hong Kong.
Avoiding these disease is for the most part impossible, but a healthy diet and exercise can go a long way in reducing the chances of you getting sick, and decrease recovery time when you do.
For many countries in Asia, depression is simply not talked about - it’s often outright ignored - making it one of the hardest medical issues for doctors to diagnose and treat. In some cities, especially those in China, it can be extremely hard to not only find information about depression on the web, but also find a treatment center.
Largely because of this, it is easier for men to simply try to ignore depression related symptoms or suffer in silence. While it may feel like admitting depression is akin to admitting your biggest weakness, it is a serious issue that should be addressed. If you are suffering from depression, you should talk to your doctor or a mental health specialist.
How can Pacific Prime help?
One commonality between the health issues listed above is that you are going to need to see a doctor or visit a hospital for treatment. In Asia, treatment can be quite expensive especially if you go to a private hospital where doctors will likely speak your language and the level of care will be much higher. Pacific Prime can help you find an insurance plan that not only covers your existing and potential medical needs, but also meets your budget.
Contact our health insurance experts today to learn more about finding the perfect plan for you, your family, and even your employees.