Each one of us may have to consult our doctor when we are ill. It may be for minor or serious illness. The nature of illness varies according to ones age and sex. Here I am concentrating mostly on illnesses related to older adults (as Americans say).

As geriatrics in western world is a well-developed sector, in the medical profession due to continual improvements to medical technology and the availability of newer type of medications, the treatment for various illnesses has been revolutionized and improved. Due to these people live longer and we have a large number of elderly populations existing in the community. The Asian community in UK has a large share of elderly either mostly living alone or some with their family.

From my long experience as a GP in UK, I am noticing that the Asian elderly group and their families are yet to have proper realization of the future ahead by their close relatives and themselves. We do often hear that several individuals live alone and are struggling to cope. Many of the Asian elderly group, who were working in high paid jobs with children well educated and settled, are now retired. Unfortunately some of this group may be expecting their children to take care of them when they are ill or frail. As we all know, their children have their own priorities and busy themselves with own responsibilities. I have seen that many Asian elderly have been depressed and lonely. Also, there is a stigma and pride attached to it and they do not even share their concerns with their close friends. We often hear that they become very happy when they visit their relatives in India. It is like a shot in the arm, perhaps, I should say, a dose of vitamin D. But such visits are only transient remedy.

When an Asian elderly gets admitted to a local hospital or a nursing home for care, the system in this country is yet to comprehend the cultural sensitivity and needs of this group. People and patients are advised and should take care of themselves, and know when to approach a GP for medical help. Fortunately many of the illness are self-limiting. A change in life style - like doing daily exercise; controlling the diet; avoiding consuming too much alcohol; and stopping smoking – all these help to maintain a healthy life.

Vitamin D deficiency has been a causative factor in many illnesses like cardiac, diabetes and various malignancies. Vitamin D deficiency, which is very common in western countries, is also very much prevalent in India. This is due to people living in air-conditioned buildings resulting in very little exposure to sunlight.

Three main illnesses often affects the South Asians and these are as follows:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease mostly premature coronary heart disease with hypertension or with normal blood pressure.
  • Obesity is equally responsible for the above two potentially preventable condition. The lipid (control) should start much early in childhood especially, if any of the parents do have high cholesterol.

Please see the GP when:

A healthy individual starts losing weight, getting out of breath or has unexplained symptoms. It is often possible to detect signs of malignancy in very early stages.

An unexplained bleeding per (via) rectum or postmenopausal bleeding in women – both warrants urgent medical attention.

In men nocturia or waking up at night to pass urine few times could be sign of enlarged prostate or diabetes.

Depression is very common in people living alone or had some recent bereavement. It is also common in patients with diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson's disease.

Final Thoughts

Many illnesses are due to hereditary related factors but one can modify or even prevent it by raising the body's immunity. However, too many medical investigations could be harmful than useful. One of the well known Professor of Radiology once said that many patients had various unnecessary procedures carried out by detecting some benign shadows in their scans and he labels these patients as 'VOMIT' (victims of magnetic information technology).

Best advise to all is to be happy, have and make new friends and help each other. Enjoy simple things in life and laughter is the best medicine for all of us.