The state of health of our nation


  • Ask Dr G
  • Sunday, 30 Aug 2015

“For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future”. These are the wise words from arguably the most famous modern time President of the United States, John F Kennedy.

Of course, we can reflect on our own changes since the Independence. After fifty-eight years of freedom from the British rule, we had, of course experienced the trial and tribulations that shape our nation and consolidate our identity as Malaysians. Upon reflection, are we really comfortable to reveal our own mirror image as a nation? More importantly, what exactly is the state of health of the population? And where will we be heading?

I was called last week by several journalists to verify the accuracy of a report stating that 1.6 million Malaysian men are faced with the curse of Erectile Dysfunction (ED) during the course of their lives. I was somewhat surprised the media were shocked by the figure, and thought the statistic was probably exaggerated. Think about it, we have about thirty million Malaysians and half of us are men. In fact the figure of 12% Malaysian men suffers from ED is probably an underestimation. In reality, the number is most likely significantly higher and sadly affecting more and more younger guys.

A local insurance company recently asked me to participate in a health campaign to ask a group of kids to evaluating their parents’ health status by providing them a “report card”. When I presented the appraisal to my own children, I was curiously excited with the outcome. The enthusiasm soon turned to fear as I have some inclination the results will be poor. I really don't know why I had such eager anticipations. Come on, It doesn't take a genius to work out why I was not going to pass with flying colours. On that note, I would like to answer a young reader’s concerns and at the same time outlining the state of health of our nation!

 

Dear Dr. G,

I read with interests and humour an interview featuring you, talking about ED affecting younger men on the Star. I understand you were highlighting the fact the prevalence of ED is rising amongst young Malaysians and this is the reflection of poor health in young urbanites.

Although your observations may have a scientific basis, I really think the causes of sexual dysfunction in younger men are generally psychological in nature.

I am 38 years old and I am a hard working sales executive. Of course, like most men living an urban lifestyle, the work is a bit stressful. Needless to say, I get tired and unsurprisingly I occasionally am unable to perform in the bedroom.

I also understand I have no time to exercise and due to work commitments, I often consume food that may have expanded my waistline. This has impact on my stamina in sex, however I expect this to be a temporary issue. When the work situation improves, I am sure I can get back in shape to my former glory.

I went to see my doctor about my “occasional” setbacks, he prescribed me the blue pills and ask me to improve my lifestyle. I really think that is so wrong. I am 38 years old; surely I don't need the pills for lovemaking? Do I have ED?

Regards

Robert

 

Sir Winston Churchill once said: “There is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure” Indeed, it is time to dare and considerhealth status of men in Malaysia and how that reflects the state of affairs in our country.

The Ministry of Health recently released data which showed that 3.2 million Malaysians are affected by Diabetes, and 24,000 diabetic related deaths were also recorded in the same year.

One of the complications of diabetes, together with hypertension, is the eventuality of kidney failure or impairment. These two “silent killers” are responsible for the nearly two thirds of the depreciation of renal functions in our country, affecting a staggering 2.5 Millions population according to the same study.

Meanwhile, in a separate study, SOCSO conducted a free health screening campaign for its members recently. It was shocking to discover that out of the  308,039 subjects studied, sixty two percent had extremely high cholesterol levels.

The same study also revealed that 75% of Malaysians do not exercise regularly. I guess that is also in keeping with a global study which found that 44% of Malaysians are either overweight or obese. That makes us the fattest nation in South East Asia.

Of course, as suggested by Robert, the etiology of ED cannot only be due to the lifestyle choices. Indeed, there are psychological causes of impotency. Gloomily, the data from stress related matters were also perturbing; three quarters of Malaysians admitted to stress related illnesses. Half of the surveyed acknowledged increasing strain at work and 42% realized such pressure had resulted in sleep deprivation regularly.

The stress and sedentary life style undoubtedly have an impact on the third leading cause of death in Malaysia, cancer, which can affect fatality in up to 10.3% of us before the age of 75. No wander the number of cancer detections in Malaysia is rising to 37,000 in 2012 and estimated to escalate to 57,000 by 2025.

Robert may think the hindrance between the sheets is a temporary setback that hardly needs the pills for long term. The reality is the impediment in sex is a mere warning sign of the trouble ahead not just in sexual health, but his general health. This is a reflection of the complaisance attitude we all have as a nation. “It’s not too bad”, “Just a touch of cholesterol”, “Mild diabetes” and “It’s all transient and will get better”

The founding father of the United States, Benjamin Franklin once said: “Lost time is not found again”. So Malaysian, wake up and smell the roses, if the actions are not taken today, the next fifty-eight years are simply going to be diabolical! 

 

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Dr George Lee

Dr George Lee

Dr George Lee is a consultant Urologist and Clinical Associate Professor whose professional interest is in men’s health. The column “Ask Dr G” is a forum to help men debunk the myths and taboos on men’s issues that may be too “hard” to mention. You can send him questions at askdrg@thestar.com.my

   

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