Movember, the marriage of a moustache plus November, is a month long reminder for men to focus on healthy lifestyles and raise research money for men’s cancers and conditions. And while much attention is given to the newest guidelines, medicines and research, I would suggest that we focus on some undeniable sobering facts.
Cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke) is still the leading cause of death of men around the world. Heart disease is the #2 cause of death in Singapore (only slightly behind cancer), and in Singapore, men are twice as likely as women to die from a heart attack.
Cancer, on a global scale, kills nearly 8 million people annually and is second only to heart disease as a leading cause of death from non-communicable diseases. Closer to home, cancer is the #1 cause of death in Singapore. It has been the #1 cause of death in Singapore since 2001, and the cases increase every year. Cancer of the colon, lung and prostate are the three top killers for men.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease and cancer, share the exact same lifestyle risk factors. The main risk factors are obvious to everyone and getting worse every year. They are high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. These conditions are a direct result of poor choices such as smoking, harmful drinking, poor food choices and sedentary lifestyles.
While globally 63% of the world dies from these non-communicable diseases (e.g. heart disease, cancer, plus diabetes and lung disease), in Singapore that number is 89%.
Yes, nearly 9 out of 10 Singaporeans will die from diseases that can easily be prevented.
Diseases that can be screened for, diseases that are caused by cigarette smoking, diseases that should not happen so often in an stable and educated society.
It is absolutely clear that positive lifestyle changes that reduce heart disease risk, such as weight loss, exercise and a healthy diet also protect men against common cancers. Let there be no doubt that what’s good for the heart is good for your lungs, colon and prostate.
It has been said that healthcare is not a science problem; it is an information problem. In my opinion, we don’t need more research for expensive drugs that only extend life by a few months or drugs that lower cholesterol but also cause unwanted side effects. What we really need is better messaging, better communication and better understanding of how to help each other break out of our bad habits and create real behaviour change.
Consistently making good meal choices, being active (or very active) every day, quitting smoking and getting good sleep significantly reduces the chances of getting heart disease or cancer.
By consistently, I mean, we need to make good choices every day and at every meal, not just in Movember.
The facts above make it very clear, the choices you make and your personal behaviour impact your health today and in the future. You don’t need a doctor or a nurse to tell you the obvious. Eating healthy, moving your body and not smoking is a message from Movember you can remember all year long.
This article has been contributed by Dr Steven Tucker. American physician, Dr Steven Tucker, MD (USA), FACP (USA), FAMS (Medical Oncology), is a medical specialist living and practicing in Singapore since 2006. While originally trained as a cancer specialist at the UCLA Center for Health Sciences, Dr Tucker currently focuses on both adult general medicine and cancer medicine. To learn more about him or book an appointment, go to his DocDoc profile.Photo by Gerardo Obieta via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence