The Medical City (TMC), the Philippines’ largest healthcare network which has recently partnered with Sama Medical Services for its UAE and Gulf expansion, revealed the top ailments affecting the Filipinos in the UAE.
These include hypertension and cardiovascular diseases; type 2 diabetes; hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and hyperuricemia (high uric acid); respiratory illnesses; and acute gastroenteritis and peptic ulcer. Although heredity is not ruled out as a factor, the diseases are mainly related to lifestyle.
The Filipino community is one of the largest expatriate segments in the UAE, numbering nearly a million.
The list provided by TMC disclosed the most commonly diagnosed diseases among members of this community. The ailments are linked to dietary choices altered from balanced and healthy to excessively salted and fatty, spurred by the abundance of processed food. These types of food lead to rapid weight gain and are major causes of both heart diseases as well as type 2 diabetes.
Dr Marissa Joson, Cardiologist, The Medical City, Dubai, said, “A person’s recommended daily protein intake depends on the body weight and the amount of exercise done daily. Food containing high-protein drives up the body’s uric acid unless the protein is used up in vigorous physical activities. There is a certain measure of protein you can have daily if you do not exercise, and a slightly larger measure if you do. Exceeding these limits on a regular basis can lead to high uric acid, which in turn causes gout.”
“A person should be particularly careful to limit their intake of highly processed meat, such as meatloaf or sausage. A lot of our patients consume such food in large amounts but do not do anything to counter the negative effects,” she added.
Majority of Filipinos in the UAE either eat out or order food through the delivery or take away service of restaurants and food chains, numerous times a week. Finger chips served with fried meat are commonly found in fast food meals. “Potato is best consumed baked, not fried. The artery-hardening fries trigger hypertension that is just one step away from a chronic high blood pressure problem,” Joson said.
While unbalanced dietary choices are linked to heart disease and diabetes as well as cholesterol and uric acid problems, they also indirectly lead to gastric problems and peptic ulcers.
“The build-up of unhealthy elements in the body weakens the immune system. The imbalance of gastric juices harms the stomach lining, making it relatively easy for stomach flu and ulcer-causing bacteria to attack the body,” she explained.
On the other hand, the prevalence of respiratory illnesses is tied to excess weight, besides the amount of time spent in a stale air-conditioned environment.
Dr Rene Borromeo, Surgeon, The Medical City, Dubai, said: “Excess weight definitely has an impact on lung physiology. If someone already has asthma, it becomes harder to treat it if the person also puts on a significant amount of weight.”
“A heavy person’s airway becomes obstructed, leading to sleep apnoea. This is a condition in which people stop breathing while they are asleep. The more weight a person gains, the more pressure the fatty tissues put on the lungs, squeezing the volume of the lungs and hampering oxygen circulation within the body,” Dr Borromeo added.
Dr Rebecca Desiderio, CEO for GCC, The Medical City, advised: “Avoid these chronic conditions by doing regular cardio exercises such as running, cycling, walking and swimming. Balance the takeaway and fastfood meals with regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said.