By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
The global pandemic has brought increased awareness to physical wellbeing and mental health. This Father’s Day, two fathers and a medical professional share their perspective on the importance of taking health more seriously.
Samuel Sim, executive director of Puget Sound Labor Agency, turned 40 this year and is a father of two children, ages 6 and 4.
Since turning 40, Sim has started to realize that he’s not as healthy as he used to be and his body isn’t adjusting as well to the normal wear and tear. He knows that there are more routine screenings that come along with the milestone, but it’s not front and center. He thinks that there needs to be more marketing and promotion around it.
“When something is painful, I wait and wait, thinking that it will correct itself, but it doesn’t. I need to be more cautious, instead of waiting for my body to show me a sign before I go to the hospital.”
Setting health reminders
Sim uses a wearable device to monitor his high blood pressure. When his blood pressure is slightly elevated, it alerts him to step back and breathe. He’ll set up reminders to go out for a job and try to attain certain goals.
He credited his wife for reminding him to go get checked out by a doctor and will even make appointments for him.
“Getting healthcare for kids is automatic and immediate. There’s no cost, but for us, there’s a cost,” he explained of his kids’ healthcare priorities.
Sim said that he hasn’t done much for his mental health because it hasn’t been on his mind, even though he’s aware of it.
Sim likes to golf, and acknowledges that he has bad shoulders. He needed an MRI for his shoulder, but his medical team did X-rays on his bones. He knew that his bones weren’t the issue, it was his muscles.
As expected, his X-rays showed that his bones were fine, but now he’s left waiting for that cost to come out. He noted that in South Korea, basic routine check ups, as well as other complaints, can be addressed in one visit, but in the U.S., you get the basics done and then you need to be referred to a specialist where they’d charge you more.
“We’re not a preventative system, we’re a treatment system,” he said referring to the U.S. healthcare system.
When physical exercise is too much
Physical exercise can be good and bad for your health.
For father of four and a partner at Trend Forward Capital, Jonathan Chang, 41, basketball has been a blessing and a curse.
“As an adult, I know my body well enough that things are functioning. If I can play basketball, then physically, I’m OK,” he said.
Despite Chang using basketball as a gauge of his physical health, the high-intensity sport is also the cause of most of his physical health problems.
Over the last decade or so, Chang has endured a lot of physical challenges from playing basketball—he’s had three major surgeries—one for his back and two for his knees. He visited a physical therapist regularly for about two and a half years, and to this day, he still sees a chiropractor every week to get his muscles and joints aligned.
He said that the pandemic prevented him from seeing a doctor for a few years. He had planned to go in for his 40th birthday last year, which was during the peak of the pandemic.
Chang usually will decide to see a specialist if he’s endured physical pain for at least five days.
“If by the fifth day, the pain is still lingering, then that’s when I’ll schedule an appointment,” he said.
Seeking medical guidance
Scott Sato, physician assistant-certified, at the International Community Health Services (ICHS) at the Holly Park clinic, said that ICHS refers to the United States Preventative Task Force guidelines for all preventative health screenings.
“It’s common for the man to say that everything’s fine, but the wife will say that he needs to get checked out,” Sato explained.
Sato had a man in his 60’s come in with his wife for a check-up, and he asked how he was doing, and the man said that everything was fine, no problems, but his wife had a different story. She told Sato that her husband had been acting strange and differently, not being as present, and forgetting a lot, so Sato ordered a CT scan right away.
The scan showed that the man had a hemorrhagic stroke that was around two weeks old, and his wife was aware of everything that happened, but the man said he was fine. It was good that his wife was there to share observations.
“A lot of signs of cancer are very non-specific. Even if you don’t have symptoms, still go get a check-up, we can catch things without symptoms during check-ups since a lot of problems don’t have symptoms,” he said.
Sato said the most common problems male patients—especially older men—come in for are pain or difficulty with urination.
“Men will come in with those problems, but they won’t come in for high blood pressure. They don’t necessarily think it’s a problem because they don’t feel anything,” he said.
Mental health is just as important as physical health
Sato explained that many of ICHS’ patients include Asian and East African immigrants, and a lot of them don’t recognize what depression and anxiety are.
“It’ll manifest in their complaints as feeling tired, unable to sleep, or even chronic abdominal pain. It takes a while to figure out, but nothing comes up as abnormal so you think maybe it’s psychological, not like in the Western world where they recognize I have a problem.”
Sato added that a lot of people don’t want to see a behavioral health specialist because they think, “I’m not crazy.” Even if he convinces them to see a specialist, they don’t end up seeing them.
“Mental health is harder to navigate in this population,” he said.
In Sato’s practice, they see whole families, parents and their kids as patients, oftentimes he’ll see the father, check their chart, and mention that he hasn’t seen them in a long time and encourage them to make an appointment if they’re overdue for a visit.
Sato’s advice to the general population is that if there’s any change in how you’re feeling, then it’s a sign to get checked out. For example, unintentional weight loss, more frequent abdominal pain and bowel movements, and nausea.
Nina can be reached at email@example.com.