Posted on Feb 06, 2015 by Alexander Nellist
Hong Kong, one of the most modern and westernized cities in Asia, offers some of the highest quality health care in the world. With a well established private and public system, expats have a wide selection of health care to choose from without having to wait long to see a doctor. Because of the high quality of healthcare and the relatively accessible system, the life expectancy in Hong Kong is 81.1 years for males and 86.7 years for females - among the highest in the world.
Even considering that people in Hong Kong have long lives, many expats who move here quickly find that it can be hard to lead a healthy lifestyle, despite the fact that on the whole, the city is healthy. No matter how healthy the population is however, there are always going to be health issues that people need to be aware of, especially men, who often neglect seeing a doctor when sick.
It can be easy to ignore a constantly sore back, or chalk up a chronic rugby injury to simply being “part of the game”. There are a number of health issues facing expat men in Hong Kong. Here are six:
1 - Colorectal Cancer
According to the Center for Health Protection in Hong Kong, malignant neoplasms were the number one cause of death in 2012, with 32.6% of deaths in Hong Kong being attributed to cancer. While there are many types of cancer, colorectal (colorectum) cancer is the second most common type of cancer. For men, 18% of all new cancer cases in 2012 were colorectal cancer. 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.
Experts recommend that the best way to limit your chances of developing this type of cancer is to cut back or eliminate alcohol, smoking, and fatty foods; and to try to lose weight - if you are overweight. Above all else, be sure to get screened on a regular basis. For men over 50, this means at least once a year, and once every two years for men between 35 and 50. In Hong Kong, most GPs and private hospitals are equipped to do the test.
While this form of cancer is most commonly found in middle-aged men, there is a version that is hereditary that can develop in men as young as 20. If a family member has been diagnosed with this type of cancer, it would be a good idea to start being screened every year from your mid 20s.
Despite the high rates of developing colorectal cancer, 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
The Center for Health Protection in Hong Kong lists heart disease as the third most common cause of death in Hong Kong, representing 14.2% of all deaths in 2012. In fact, heart disease has been one of the top causes of death in Hong Kong since the 1960s. These figures paint a fairly morbid, serious picture for all living in Hong Kong, including expats.
Simply put, the lifestyle many expats lead in Hong Kong - long hours, nights out in LKF, poor diet, lower levels of exercise, stress, weight gain, etc. makes them prime candidates for the various types of heart disease. If you want to keep up with the hectic lifestyle many lead in this city, you should start taking care of your heart today. Be sure to exercise more (even walking can help), eat better, keep stress as low as possible, and, above all else, go for regular checkups.
Unsure of where to start? Check out the Smart Patient section of the Hong Kong Health Authority’s website to learn more. There are some useful tips and background information that could help you lead a “heart healthy” life while you are in Hong Kong and beyond.
3 - Hypertension
In Hong Kong, cerebrovascular diseases are the fourth most common cause of death, of which hypertension is the leading, and most important, cause. The thing about hypertension is that many people in Hong Kong are simply unaware that they have it. A study published by School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong in 2012 found that one in three adults in Hong Kong have hypertension. Half of the people studied who were found to have high blood pressure were unaware of it.
Interestingly, roughly half of all hypertension cases are identified in Hong Kong, and half of those diagnosed are treated. Half of those treated attain normal blood pressure levels. This indicates that it can pose a serious threat to all living in Hong Kong.
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 Hong Kong, 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
Hong Kong is somewhat unique in that there are not one, but two major flu seasons. It appears that in the past couple of years, communicable diseases from influenza, to pneumonia, to more serious diseases like H7N9 are on the rise. According to the Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong, pneumonia is the second highest cause of death in Hong Kong. For healthy males, the chances of dying from these diseases are relatively low, yet Hong Kong’s extreme population density and overall population still result in communicable diseases spreading faster than almost anywhere else on earth.
As an expat, especially one new to the city, or one who travels a lot, your body likely isn’t as used to the germs and diseases going around. This leads to a higher chance of catching something, which in turn means more time off, and more money spent on healthcare. Avoiding these disease is largely impossible, but leading a healthy life with a good diet and exercise can go a long way in reducing the chances of you getting sick, and increase recovery time when you do.
5 - Depression
According to a report published by the Center for Health Protection in Hong Kong in 2012, the average prevalence of depression in Hong Kong is 8.4% per year. While this may not seem overly high, depression and, indeed, any mental health issue is not usually addressed in the city. It is a struggle finding anything beyond basic information on various government websites, and many people simply ignore it. This means rates are likely significantly higher.
Because mental health issues are largely ignored or simply not talked about in Hong Kong, this makes it even easier for expat men to simply ignore any symptoms related to depression. 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. A good place to start learning more about depression in Hong Kong is the Health Authorities Smart Patient website.
6 - Gout
The “rich man’s disease” as it is commonly known is unique in that it is almost exclusively is found in men. While actual recorded figures for gout in Hong Kong are rare (the latest report from the government mentioning prevalence is from 2001), available data reports about a 5% prevalence, which makes it fairly common in the region. By comparison, Singapore has a prevalence of about 4.1% with 90% of sufferers being male.
Often affecting men who are over 50 and who have high consumption rates of alcohol, red meat, soy, and yeast, this form of arthritis comes with symptoms like hot, searing pain of the toes and impaired movement.
As an expat, nights out at the bar after long days in the office likely isn’t doing wonders to your chances of avoiding gout. However, reducing your intake of red meat and alcohol and getting exercise should go a long way in reducing your chances of getting gout.
When facing health problems in Hong Kong, it would be a good idea to see a doctor. The only problem with this is doctors who speak your language and offer excellent levels of care are often found at the city’s private hospitals, which are among the most expensive in the world. To help offset associated costs, Pacific Prime recommends getting in contact today. As the leading international health insurance broker in the world, our experts can help you find the best plans that meet your budget and coverage needs.