From general health to andropause questions, most Filipino men tend to play strong and silent. But, getting advice from health experts is still the way to go if you want to keep fit and live life to the fullest. Below are what specialists have to say:
On heart health
Donna Ãnel, M.D., M.P.H., a specialist in internal medicine, preventive medicine, and public health advises: "The most important by far is to quit smoking. Many people feel like this is old news, but it is not. Smoking prevalence is still very high among Filipinos. In the most recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey in 2009, smoking prevalence was at 28.3 percent for adults―but broken down by gender, [the] prevalence among males is a staggering 47.7 percent and a modest 9.0 percent for females."
She adds, "Smokers usually start smoking [in their] early teens … Kids grossly underestimate [its] addictive power and are cavalier about health effects. I mean, what 13 year old thinks about lung cancer, or even knows what it is?"
"Even when the desire to quit is heartfelt or the need to quit is obvious and overwhelming, often, the habit still sticks. This is the addictive power of nicotine,” Dr. Anel warns. “[I’ve] had patients who were in the hospital for a heart attack and they still snuck out for a smoke. Many are terribly ashamed―out in the hospital entrance, hanging on their IV pole, wearing hospital gowns that expose their behind, smoking after a heart attack―but terribly powerless.”
For those who do not smoke, she says the most important thing you can do for your heart health is to keep track of “your blood pressure, your weight, your waist circumference, your cholesterol, and your fasting blood sugar,” as these numbers all directly translate to your risk of heart disease.
Margaux Tiangco, M.D., an endocrinologist at Pennsylvania State Hershey Medical Center, debunks the common perception of andropause as a myth, saying: "[It’s] a term commonly used to refer to a condition of low testosterone that men generally experience with aging. [It’s] also known as late-onset hypogonadism and is akin to female menopause.”
"Most men typically do not develop problems or symptoms with low testosterone levels. However, for unknown reasons, some men may be more symptomatic than others and may have problems with decreased energy [or] libido, mood [changes], erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis or anemia,” explains Dr. Tiangco.
To diagnose the syndrome, a blood test is performed first thing in the morning and the treatment is testosterone replacement—available as a gel, patch or injection. “Testosterone replacement should only be based on a physician's recommendations as blood levels need to be monitored [during] treatment, and other diseases that may cause the same or similar symptoms must first be ruled out,” the doctor stresses.
She adds, "Erectile dysfunction is a condition that can be caused by low testosterone but it is important that a thorough work-up be done prior to beginning treatment. Other important things to consider would be medication side effects (some blood pressure pills can cause erectile dysfunction), peripheral vascular disease, psychological disturbances, or anatomic abnormalities.”
"So-called 'natural' ways of increasing testosterone that are in the market include zinc, saw palmetto and ginseng, [are] sold commercially and available without a doctor's prescription. However, there are no reliable studies that have shown any clinical benefit," Dr. Tiangco reminds.
Knowledge from the Orient
Philip Tan-Gatue, M.D. is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner who is also a licensed physician. With regard to andropause and erectile dysfunction, he opines: "[TCM] views men's sexual health in the following phrase: 'while supplies last.' [It] acknowledges that it gets harder to reload as one gets older. [F]or all the pills and potions that TCM can recommend as their own version of Viagra, the traditional and more conservative attitude [is]: ‘Sleeping alone is better than all the tonics in the world.’”
"Have you ever wondered why some folks seemingly have endless stamina while others don't? Have you ever scratched your head at why some people are seemingly born sickly? Modern medicine attributes these differences to genetics. The ancient Orientals did so, too,” he notes. “They developed a concept of ‘jing’ or essence. Essence is inherited from parents. It's important for parents to be healthy while conceiving, lest the child be cursed with a weak constitution.”
Familiar concepts in TCM include qi and blood. While “qi and blood can easily be tonified with herbal medicines and qigong, essence is a different story,” Dr. Tan-Gaute says. “Think of essence as a candle you are born with. There is a finite amount of wax. One can use herbs and exercises to prevent excessive leakage, but the truth is that it's better to conserve it.”
For more expert advice on male problems, get your copy of HealthToday’s special men’s issue this June, out now in newsstands and bookstores.