Our dads are always raising us well, looking out for us and generally taking care of us throughout our lives. Now it's our turn to take care of them – and their health!
It can be hard to think about, but the truth is that ageing can lead to several common health conditions that your dad should be looking out for. Going for regular screening is the best way to do this and should provide you both with peace of mind.
Here are some health conditions your father may face as he gets older, and the steps he can take to address them. If your dad has other health concerns, encourage him to speak to a doctor.
Did you know that colorectal cancer is the most common cancer among Singaporean males, and that more than 90% of the cases affect those above 50 years of age?
Colorectal cancer refers to cancer in your large intestine (colon and rectum). It usually begins as polyps (small growths), some of which will enlarge and become cancerous. This process usually takes years. As your dad gets older, the risk of having these polyps and thus colorectal cancer increases, so he should definitely be going for annual screening if he's over 50 years of age. This is especially true if you know of other family members who have had polyps or colorectal cancer.
The good news is that colorectal cancer is slow to develop and has one of the best treatment outcomes when treated early. Often, polyps found at the time of screening can be removed on the spot before they have a chance to change into cancerous tumours.
Bear in mind that you can have polyps and not even know it! So, even if your dad hasn't noticed any pain, bleeding or changes in his bowel habits, it's still worth getting checked. The method of choice for screening is the colonoscopy, which is safe and effective, and remains the only way to remove a polyp and thus prevent cancer from developing.
Reviewed by Dr Mark Wong, general surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital
High blood pressure
High blood pressure is extremely common in Singapore. In fact, almost 1 in 4 Singaporean residents aged 30 – 69 have this condition. The worrying thing is that you can have high blood pressure and not even know it, which is why you'll often hear it referred to as the 'silent killer'. Left untreated, it can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
Make sure your dad gets his blood pressure checked at least twice a year. If he's told he has high blood pressure, don't panic. If detected early, you can gently encourage him to lead a healthier lifestyle to reduce the risks involved. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking may all be beneficial.
A doctor will also be able to provide him with guidelines to follow and possibly some medication to help keep his blood pressure under control before a stroke or heart attack actually happens.
Reviewed by Dr Eric Hong, cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men worldwide, and the 3rd most common in Singapore. Only last year it was reported that cases of prostate cancer are on the rise here, increasing from an average of 6 per 100,000 men to 30 per 100,000 men. So, it's really important that your dad gets himself checked regularly, especially if he's over the age of 50.
Luckily, prostate cancer is usually treatable if it's diagnosed early enough. Symptoms include the frequent urge to urinate, pain when urinating, or blood in the urine. So, if your dad has any of those, he should seek medical attention right away. But remember: prostate cancer usually doesn't cause symptoms in the very early stages, so it's always better to be safe and get checked annually for peace of mind.
Reviewed by Dr Tan Yung Khan, urologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital
Diabetes is one of the biggest health problems we face in Singapore. Approximately 1 in 9 Singaporeans has diabetes, and that number increases to 3 in 10 over the age of 60. It's a long-term medical condition that causes high blood sugar levels and can lead to serious health complications. Type 2 diabetes is especially common in people aged over 40 who are overweight or physically inactive.
Often, diabetes won't cause symptoms until blood sugar levels are quite high or a serious complication occurs. So, even if your dad feels healthy, encourage him to get screened at least once every couple of years. This is even more important if he isn't a fan of exercising, has family members with diabetes, or has already been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Reviewed by Dr Abel Soh, endocrinologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital
Glaucoma is an eye condition that affects the optic nerve. Increased pressure on the nerve causes damage, which, if left untreated, can lead to permanent blindness. Most people with the condition won't even know they have it, so it's important to get it diagnosed and treated before any permanent vision damage occurs.
Glaucoma usually presents itself later in life. If your dad is over the age of 40, he should definitely be going for eye check-ups. The frequency depends on his risk factors and what the first screening shows. If he has a family history of the disease or has diabetes, he should consider going more often. While he's at the eye doctor, he can get checked for other common eye conditions associated with ageing, like cataracts and macular degeneration.
Reviewed by Dr Leo Seo Wei, ophthalmologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital
The incidence of nasopharyngeal cancer is declining, but it's still the most common head and neck cancer in Singapore. It develops at the back of the nose, often causing a neck lump to appear. Sometimes, it also causes double vision, recurring headaches, a blocked ear, and blood-stained mucus or phlegm.
One of its potential causes is the Epstein-Barr virus, which is very common and is primarily spread through saliva. Other risk factors include a diet high in preserved foods and a family history of cancer. It's worth noting that more than 90% of cases in Singapore occur in Chinese and Malay men aged between 40 and 65 years.
If you or your dad has one or more family members with nasopharyngeal cancer, or if he's concerned about the risk of developing it as he grows older, encourage him to go for a simple blood test and a scope of his nose.
Reviewed by Dr Kenneth Oo, ENT specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital