Illness

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Diabetes in China: the fast growing health issue

Diabetes in China: the fast growing health issue

The number of diabetes cases worldwide reached an alarming 422 million people according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study last year. Eat healthily, be active and avoid excessive weight gain is the advice of WHO chief Margaret Chan. Governments and organizations alike are being called upon to ramp up measures to reduce diabetes risk factors with the 1980s case figures only amounting to 108 million.

China, maybe somewhat surprisingly, is one of the biggest movers in diabetes cases worldwide. Little over ten years ago, the Chinese diet was being touted as a potential solution to the West’s obesity issue. Now, however, the country looks set to find itself facing a significantly growing diabetes problem. So how big is the problem, and what can people do to reduce the risk of developing diabetes in China?

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition which can affect the entire body. When someone has diabetes, their body finds it difficult to maintain healthy levels of glucose (a form of sugar). A hormone called insulin is used to successfully convert glucose into energy. Diabetes stops or restricts this process, and can leave high levels of energy in the blood of sufferers.

There are three types of diabetes; type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes:

  • Type 1: Occurs when the immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas, releasing little or no insulin to the body and causing sugar to build up in the blood. Between 5 to 10 percent of diabetes cases are Type 1.
  • Type 2: Occurs where the body cannot properly use the insulin that is released, or cannot make enough. This results in sugar also building up in the blood instead of being converted into energy. About 90 percent of people with diabetes suffer from Type 2.
  • Gestational diabetes: This is a temporary condition that can occur during pregnancy, affecting approximately 2 to 4 percent of all pregnancies. Its development can also lead to both mother and child developing type 1 or 2 diabetes later.

Having a high blood sugar level can cause complications such as chronic kidney disease, foot problems, non-traumatic limb amputation, eye disease and blindness, heart attack, stroke, anxiety, nerve damage, and erectile dysfunction. The exact causes of Type 1 diabetes is unknown but genetic susceptibility, environmental factors are strongly linked causes. Being overweight increases your risks of developing Type 2.

The growing problem of diabetes in China

With China accounting for 19 percent of the global population, the WHO study reveals that the country accounts for a significantly higher number of diabetes cases around the world. Of the 422 million cases, China accounts for 129.3 million; a whopping 30 percent of all cases. Even more concerning is the rate in which diabetes has grown in China. 9.4 percent of Chinese adults have diabetes, up from less than 1 percent in 1980.

The figures are concerning. Dr Hai-rim Shin, from the WHO’s regional office in Manila, told the SCMP that risk factors for diabetes in China has increased. 35.4 percent of Chinese adults are overweight, 7.3 percent are obese, and 23.8 percent of those studied were deemed to be “physically inactive” (not performing at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week).

Comparing China’s figures with the United States, American’s have a much higher proportion of overweight people (69.6 percent overweight, 35 percent obese, and 35 percent physically inactive), yet their prevalence of diabetes is a lower 9.1 percent. In the same article, the Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative (ADPI) attributes this to Asians’ lower muscle mass and higher abdominal fat, both of which increase insulin resistance.

Finally, nationwide study in China has found a significant association between diabetes and all-cause mortality compared with those without diabetes. According to Dr Fiona Bragg, of the University of Oxford in England, the recent prevalence of diabetes in China makes its full on effect on mortality unknown, however it’s clear that those with diabetes experience a 9-year shorter lifespan.

Reducing your risk of diabetes

If you’re concerned about developing diabetes in China, then the ADPI has some general tips for reducing your risks:

  • Keep a healthy weight: This means be aware of any excess fat around your waist and adjusting your lifestyle in order to reduce body fat.
  • Eat a healthy diet: This includes reducing your consumption of refined grains, unhealthy fats and oils, red meat, and sugar.
  • Get active: Try to engage in as much physical activity during the week as possible; this includes small stuff like taking the stairs instead of an escalator, or walking rather than taking a car, train or bus when you can.

Exercise also helps reduce risk by improving your sleep and your mood, with both abnormal sleep and depression being linked to diabetes development.

Getting tested for diabetes is possible through your GP or hospital in a number of ways. The Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test can determine whether you have Type 1, 2 or prediabetes, otherwise your doctor might screen you with a random blood sugar test, fasting blood sugar test, or an oral glucose test. Glucose testing (initial challenge and follow-up tolerance testing) for pregnant women helps screen for gestational diabetes.

Testing can generally be paid for by your insurance as long as diabetes is not already a pre-existing condition. Getting your glucose levels checked and having a conversation with your doctor can help you determine your risk of developing diabetes, as well as help you adjust your lifestyle to reduce risk. With such an exponential growth in rates of diabetes in China, getting checked might just save your life.

Get insured

Health insurance can help you pay for the costs associated with diabetes. It’s possible for policies to pay some or all of your testing costs, and some plans may even cover the costs of medicine and equipment for those living with diabetes. If you’re not sure your plan does provide coverage for diabetes, or you want to find health insurance coverage that will, contact the experts at Pacific Prime China.

Their agents are familiar with a range of packages that can comprehensively insure your health, and the health of your loved ones. For a free, no obligation quote, call Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Luther in Illness
Men in China should watch out for these diseases

Men in China should watch out for these diseases

When it comes to a man and his sense of manhood, there isn’t much that is more important to him than his sexual health and overall vitality. After all, as animals every man has an evolutionary predisposition to want to reproduce, and if a man cannot fulfill this duty he may feel that he is something less than a man. While we know that this is not the case, it’s nevertheless important to maintain sexual health, as it is an excellent indicator for general wellness and quality of life as a man ages. Just as in the rest of the world, there are certain ailments that men in China need to be concerned about, as they may be at risk. Here, we talk about some of these illnesses, as well as the best ways to prevent and treat them while living in China.

Diseases prevalent among men in China

In this case we’re referring to diseases that can ultimately lead to a man’s death. You may know this already, but the two most common causes of death in men worldwide are cardiovascular disease and cancer, and China is no different. What’s more, men in China are more likely to die due to these kinds of diseases than women.

Heart disease: Despite being the number one killer of people worldwide, heart disease is the 2nd largest killer of men in China, accounting for 22% of total deaths. Men disproportionately engage in risky behavior for heart disease vis-à-vis women when it comes to smoking and alcohol consumption, so it is up to individuals to control these types of habits if they want to reduce their risk.

Cancer: As the #1 killer of people in China, cancer accounts for more than 7,500 deaths per day. In 2015, it is estimated that 4.3 million people developed cancer, with 2.8 million people dying of the disease. While men’s health news tends to focus on prostate and testicular cancer, neither of these is counted in the top 5 cancers among men in China, which include colorectal, liver, esophagus, stomach and lung cancers. These 5 types of cancer account for over two thirds of male cancer cases. Men in China are more likely to not only develop cancer, but to die because of it.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): Also known as sexually transmitted infections, the prevalence of STDs has shown signs of dramatic increases in the past decade. For example, while cases of HIV/AIDS recorded in 2010 numbered 500,000, this number inflated to 800,000 in 2011. Other sexually transmitted diseases to be worried about in China include Chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea and syphilis. Admittedly, up to date information on the prevalence of specific STDs in China is somewhat hard to come by, so it’s hard to say for sure just how big of a danger unprotected sex is in China in 2017, but certainly it is better to be safe than sorry when potentially life threatening diseases are involved.

Risks

Beyond the illnesses mentioned above there are some risk factors that are prevalent in China that can lead to them. One of the chief among these is tobacco use. 52.9% of Chinese male adults smoke tobacco, with 45.4% of the male population smoking daily. Even among the youth in China (aged 13-15), more than one in ten young men smoke tobacco regularly. This is quite a striking difference from female smoking numbers, which show only 2.4% of adults and 1.8% of young ladies smoking frequently. Additionally, the World Health Organization has reported that the global average of deaths attributable to smoking in 1990 was 6%, while in China it was 9.2%. The latter figure is expected to rise to 16.6% by 2020.

As far as what this means for men’s health, respiratory diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be a direct result of smoking. Not to mention lung cancer, which has been the most common form of cancer in China in recent years not only because of the prevalence of smoking, but also because of the air pollution issues facing the country. It is posited that by the year 2020 there will be 800,000 new lung cancer cases each year in China. Smoking also is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and a host of other health problems, as it is believed to lower general overall health and even cause reduced fertility.

Other major risk factors for health include weight/obesity, alcohol intake, and sedentary living.

Getting protection

Of course, the very best way to protect yourself from heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease is prevention. Diet and exercise to keep weight low and your heart strong are highly advisable. Also, try your best to avoid air pollution and limit your intake of alcohol, tobacco and other controlled substances. As far as sexually transmitted diseases are concerned, practicing safe sex by using condoms greatly reduces risk, but regular screenings are also a great idea.

As you can tell from the information above, men in China do have a number of things to worry about when it comes to their health. For this reason, it may be beneficial for men to have a comprehensive health insurance plan in place to provide efficient medical treatment and protection from related costs. This is especially true for expatriate men living in China, as they are far more likely to attend higher cost private hospitals rather than public hospitals where communication can be an issue.

Pacific Prime China offers international health insurance plans that will be attractive to expats in China due to the fact that they provide medical insurance coverage both inside the PRC and back in their home country, as well as virtually any country around the world. To find out if this type of insurance plan is right for you, contact the helpful insurance advisers at Pacific Prime today. They can provide you with plan comparisons from major insurance companies and give you a free quote.

Posted by Travis Jones in Illness
Tips for reducing health risks from air pollution in China

Tips for reducing health risks from air pollution in China

As you are probably aware, the harmful effects of air pollution in major Chinese cities has been a cause of ongoing concern for the population’s health and wellbeing. One of the main reasons for such high pollution levels is the observably poor compliance to environmental standards at industrial plants, and with China producing the highest total industrial output globally, harmful levels of PM2.5 pollutant matter (particles small enough to penetrate the lungs) are continuously emitted into the atmosphere, day in and day out.

World news headlines and social media sites continue to see the ubiquitous presence of China’s health pollution problem, and rightly so, as it tops the world in most types of air pollution due to the high presence of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon emissions. By 2017, Beijing aims to reduce its annual levels of PM2.5 from its 2013 level of 89.5 micrograms per cubic meter to 60 micrograms per cubic meter – an ambitious aim that still seems nearly impossible considering the city’s current reduction rate, with a recorded level of 80.6 micrograms reported at the end of 2015.

Especially when considering the increased mortality and premature deaths linked to air pollutant exposure, there’s a pressing need for the Chinese government to implement pollution reduction measures, especially in its major cities. From a personal perspective, there are also a number of things you can do to reduce the health risks associated with air pollution, a key few of which are addressed in this article.

What are the health risks associated with air pollution?

A staggering 1.6 million deaths in China per year have been attributed to toxic air pollution, as air pollutants have been reportedly linked to a number of health risks. Certain groups of people are more susceptible to air pollution health risks than others, such as pregnant women, the elderly, young children, people with heart disease, and people with lung conditions.

According to Spare The Air, some of the health risks associated with exposure to heavy air pollution include:

  • Cardiovascular disease, e.g. stroke
  • Respiratory conditions, e.g. asthma
  • Loss of lung capacity
  • Reduced resistance to infections
  • There’s also an increased risk of lung cancer from prolonged exposure to air pollution

While there are groups of people that are particularly vulnerable to these health risks, even the healthiest of individuals may develop some of the symptoms common from pollution exposure, such as wheezing and dry throat. This is why it is important for anyone living in major cities within China to mitigate the health risks caused by air pollution.

Top tips for mitigating health risks from air pollution

The health risks mentioned above may seem scary, but there are a few things you can do to minimize them.

Stay indoors

One method of significantly reducing exposure to air pollutants is to stay indoors, especially during high air pollution days. To check air pollution levels in your area, be sure to follow government warnings and local news. It may also help to look at real-time China pollution maps (like this one).

Although air pollution particles do infiltrate indoors, its concentrations are typically much lower indoors than outdoors. To lower the infiltration of air pollution, an article in the Journal of Thoracic Disease suggests closing windows, as this action alone can effectively reduce air exchange rates by approximately 50%.

Consider buying an indoor air purifier

You may also want to buy an air cleaning device (e.g. a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter) for your home, as this can help reduce the concentrations of air pollution and the levels of PM2.5 indoors. The rate at which pollutants are removed will depend on a range of factors such as the size of your home and the ventilation rate of your air purifier.

Try to stay away from heavily trafficked roads

If you’re going out for a jog or cycling around the city, it’s highly advised to stay away from heavily trafficked roads to avoid traffic-related air pollutants. These include particles from combustion engines, tire and vehicle wear, and road dust. If you have been walking near any major roadways, it’s a good idea to wash your clothes and take a shower after you get home to rid yourself of harmful fine particles.

Wear a protective mask

Sometimes, it’s hard to avoid being out during polluted days, especially when you have to commute to work. It might not look very fashionable, but wearing a protective mask or even a personal respirator can significantly help lower your exposure to air pollutants on urban streets, and can be especially beneficial for people who are more susceptible to health risks caused by air pollution.

Final advice

As revealed in this article, air pollution in China can really have a negative impact on your health, so it’s important to secure a private health insurance plan so that you are protected in the event that you require quality medical treatment from private or international hospitals. If you’ve got any questions on health plans, contact our team of experienced advisors today.

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance, Illness
Breast cancer and your health insurance in China

Breast cancer and your health insurance in China

October is a month of many things. Expats throughout the country have likely started making plans for the winter holiday or CNY, while others are getting ready for the end of year. But this month is important for another reason: It’s breast cancer awareness month. Each year, organizations, health professionals, governments, and even companies around the world launch pink ribbon campaigns that strive to increase the awareness of this all too common cancer that could affect an estimated 1 in 8 women in their lifetime. Without a doubt, breast cancer awareness has increased but there is still confusion surrounding this cancer, especially when it comes to health insurance coverage.

 

Breast cancer in China

Like in many other countries, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women, with the most recent figures from the WHO’s Cancer Today 2012 putting the incidence rate in China at 22.1 per 100,000 people. This equated to around 187,213 new cases in 2012 alone. In a country of over 1 billion people this may not seem like a large number. After all, China’s breast cancer incidence rate is among the lowest in the world. The thing is, looking at the historical figures provided by the WHO, it appears that the incidence rate is increasing.

In fact, this article on Sciencedirect reports that the incidence rate has been increasing at nearly twice global rates. The latest statistics available, from 2015, seem to corroborate this trend.

Cancer Statistics from Wiley Online Library report that in 2015 there were just under 269,000 reported cases of breast cancer in the country. This is around a 43% increase in the number of cases in three years.     

The statistics available from Wiley Online Library also show an intriguing correlation between breast cancer and location in China. For example, women in urban settings like Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen are 2.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those living in rural centers.

Beyond that, it would also appear that the average age at which women are diagnosed with breast cancer in China is actually considerably earlier than in many other countries. As the statistics from the report linked above show, the majority of breast cancer cases in China are found in women aged 45-59, which is considerably earlier than other countries like the US where the average age at diagnosis is 65.

The good news here, if you can call it that, is that the mortality rate of breast cancer in China is not increasing as fast as the incidence rate. This is largely due to the fact that, when caught early, the disease has a high survival rate. The Science Direct article linked above reports that the 5-year average survival rate was 73% from 2003-2005. Bear in mind here that this includes all stages of the cancer. This makes it the most survivable form of cancer.   

 

The cost of breast cancer treatment in China

Breast cancer, like other forms of cancer, has a strong survival rate if it is caught early. One of the best ways to do this is to have a regular mammogram. Doctors recommend that women over the age of 30 talk with their doctor about how often they should have a mammogram, and that women over the age of 45 have a yearly scan. The thing is, the price of this scan will vary. For example, Beijing’s United Family Healthcare center offers a Wellness in a Pretty Pink package which includes cancer scans for a cost of RMB 6,680. Just a mammogram scan will likely cost anywhere between RMB 100 to RMB 1,000 depending on where you receive care.    

Should you be diagnosed with breast cancer, the cost of treatment will vary drastically depending on where you receive care. For example, this report hosted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information looked at the cost of breast cancer treatment at Sichuan Cancer Hospital. It found that the average cost of breast cancer treatment (including surgery and chemo) was RMB 160,457. It further breaks down the average cost by stage:

  • TNM 0 stage – RMB 37,941
  • TNM I stage – RMB 122,622
  • TNM II stage – RMB 159,594
  • TNM III stage – RMB 215,014
  • TNM IV stage – RMB 214,229

Of course, these figures will be drastically different in each city and hospital. For example, ChinaDaily reported on a new cancer center in Guangzhou Knowledge City that offers proton therapy (a form of highly targeted radiotherapy). According to the article, the cost for each course of treatment is around RMB 200,000 to RMB 250,000. Add to this the cost of surgery and any extra doctors visits, and it would be entirely possible to see a full course of treatment balloon up to RMB 400,000.  

 

Will health insurance cover treatment?

The short answer here is, “Yes, health insurance plans in China will cover breast cancer.” The thing to be aware of is that not all plans will cover the complete cost of treatment. This is especially true for local health insurance plans and the social insurance plans we pay for via our taxes.

Both of these types of plans will have lower limits when it comes to cancer treatment. For example, some plans will only cover 65% of treatment, while other plans will only cover care at certain public hospitals. This could leave you with considerable bills to pay.

Beyond that, it should also be noted here that some local health insurance plans will not cover scans like mammograms unless they are deemed medically necessary by doctors. Also, if you have had breast cancer in the past, some insurers may refuse to cover you or will attach a higher premium and waiting period for breast cancer claims.

Luckily, there are plans available in China that do cover the high cost of treatment. The best example of these plans would be international health insurance, which usually offers higher limits and will cover more conditions. These plans will also all cover breast cancer treatment, and a few are even starting to offer coverage of mammograms and other scans. While they will likely still reject coverage of people who have recently had breast cancer, there are plans that will consider extending coverage if you have been cancer free for a number of years.

It should also be noted here that these plans are international in nature, meaning they will allow you to seek treatment in your home country or another nearby country. If you are looking for a plan that will fit your health care needs, contact Pacific Prime China today.

Posted by rmcbroom in Illness