Kuala Lumpur, Nov 6: Usually seen as the sole breadwinner in most families, men may be more hesitant to address their health issues to prevent jeopardising their sources of income, but at what cost?
In Malaysia, Ischaemic heart diseases remained as the principal cause of death for men, constituting 17.3 percent of fatalities in recent years, and there has been an unfortunate increase in the occurrence of sudden deaths as a result.
Some of these heart conditions and diseases may occur suddenly as symptoms are ignored and dismissed to avoid talking about the issue or even seek treatment.
Sunway Medical Centre Velocity (SMCV) Consultant Cardiologist and Internal Medicine Physician Dr Tee Chee Hian said that sudden death can be caused by a variety of heart problems, such as the blockage of the coronary vessel due to ruptured plaque or malignant arrhythmia, for example Ventricular tachycardia or Ventricular fibrillation that leads to no cardiac output.
“The symptoms patients must look out for are palpitation, near fainting or fainting episodes with loss of consciousness.
“Those with underlying coronary artery disease (CAD) may experience chest pain and shortness of breath on exertion – and can lead to sudden death.
“Sudden death can be a result of congenital problems such as Long QT Syndrome, HOCM (Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy), ARVD (Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia) or Brugada Syndrome (genetic disorder causing irregular heartbeat).”
With the nature of sudden death being attributed to the lack of symptoms building up to the patient collapsing or dying without warning, Dr Tee shares that everyday difficulties such as lethargy, shortness of breath on exertion, chest pain, postprandial angina (chest discomfort following meals) and reduced effort tolerance should not be ignored as these are all signs of heart issues.
Who is at risk of sudden death?
When it comes to CAD, men are more likely to suffer from the disease compared to women, and Dr Tee explains that those with underlying congenital heart problems may have a chance to have sudden death, even at a younger age.
Those who are at a more advanced age will usually collapse and experience sudden death as a result of an acute heart attack.
“We were once presented with a case of a 50-year-old man who was a smoker and had no medical check-up records, before he had sudden chest pain while walking in the park with profuse sweating – he was immediately sent to the ER and required CPR.
“His ECG test showed the result of a malignant rhythm Ventricular fibrillation, and unfortunately the patient did not survive,” Dr Tee shares.
There are steps that men can practice to take better care of their health, including a healthy lifestyle free from habits such as smoking, a balanced diet with more vegetables and fruits, and exercises that promote cardiovascular fitness like running, jogging and cycling.
“Go for regular check-ups to detect any possibility of dyslipidaemia (abnormal cholesterol level), hypertension and DM (Diabetes mellitus) – it is important to target these risk factors of CAD by diet, medication and healthy lifestyle,” Dr Tee adds.
Identifying other silent killers
Besides cardiac issues, another silent killer that men should be on the lookout for, according to Datuk Dr Selvalingam Sothilingam, Consultant Urologist from SMCV is prostate cancer – which happens to be the third most common cancer in males in Malaysia.
This is due to the asymptomatic nature of the cancer in its early stages.
“Patients are encouraged to go for screening if they have risk factors, especially if there is a family history of prostate or breast cancer – screening can be done as early as 45-years-old.
“The most common age for diagnosis of prostate cancer is men in their 60s and 70s.
“However, we have also detected cancer cases in men as early as in their 50s.
“Early diagnosis is key as it is potentially treatable if detected at an early stage,” Dr Selvalingam explains.
“Younger patients can opt for surgery to remove the prostate, often with good long-term results.
“Surgery is safe, less painful and with a shorter recovery time as it can be carried out via a keyhole surgery (robotic assisted surgery),” Dr Selvalingam adds.
In some cases, patients may mistake conditions such as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) as a precursor to cancer, which Dr Selvalingam shares is a common misconception.
While patients with BPH symptoms will often be screened for concomitant prostate cancer, prostate cancer is a separate pathology from BPH, with the latter normally treated with medication known as alpha blockers or surgery.
Patients should also watch what they eat – Dr Selvalingam observes that diets that have been postulated to increase risk of prostate cancer include red meat, low fibre and overconsumption of processed food.
“Consuming foods such as cooked tomatoes, soya products, green tea, a high-fibre diet rich in vegetables and fruits may offer added protection,” he said.
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