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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

From hairpins to hair trims: F1 star Daniel Ricciardo flags up men's health in Abu Dhabi

Formula One star Daniel Ricciardo is already off to a clean start ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - after swapping the cockpit for clippers to highlight a vital cause.

The highly-rated Red Bull Racer is no stranger to close shaves on the track and he trimmed his beard to leave only a Movember-inspired moustache to encourage more men to make a regular pit stop at the doctors.

The Australian speed merchant agreed to endure a week of facial fuzz along with Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, the Indian philanthropist and head of UAE-based VPS healthcare and UAE radio personality Kris Fade, before sitting down for a shave at Burjeel Day Surgery Centre, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

As Movember draws to a close, a month when men traditionally grow a top lip adornment to raise money for cancer charities, it was a fitting opportunity to raise awareness about men’s health during the busiest sporting weekend of the year in the capital.

Ricciardo was happy to take part in a "noble cause".

F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a trim to raise awareness of men's health at Burjeel Day Surgery in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National
F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a trim to raise awareness of men's health at Burjeel Day Surgery in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National

“I’m always excited to end the Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi and I can’t think of a better way to end the year than by partnering with VPS Healthcare for such a noble cause,” the 29-year-old said.

“As a Formula 1 race driver, health and fitness is an important aspect of my life. I encourage all of my fans in the UAE and abroad to show off their moustaches this month and be part of the movement to raise awareness for men’s health.”

Many men steer clear of a doctors appointments due to concerns about getting bad news.

“Men have a fear of finding out if they are sick,” said a VPS Healthcare spokesman.

“It is often simple things that could be prevented in a regular check-up that then become more complex.

“November is men’s health month, so this was a good opportunity to promote that.

“Hopefully people will ask why Daniel is wearing a moustache on Sunday and then find out more about their own health.”

A major factor holding men back from getting checked out is the cost of an annual physical test, as most health insurance plans don’t cover the costs.

In the UK, people are invited for a free health check every five years from the age of 40 to 74 if they don't already have heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease.

Daniel Ricciardo sports his new look alongside Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Healthcare and Kris Fade, Virgin Radio Dubai talk show host
Daniel Ricciardo sports his new look alongside Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Healthcare and Kris Fade, Virgin Radio Dubai talk show host

In America, wellness checks are usually subsidised by government, or covered under basic health insurance plans.

In the UAE however, few insurers cover the cost of an annual check-up.

“We have seen from research in the US that if insurers cover the cost of an annual check-up, then people will use it,” said Dr Fadi Baladi, medical director for Burjeel Day Surgery Centre, Abu Dhabi.

“That makes healthcare cheaper in the long term as many health conditions can be detected earlier, with better outcomes.

“Before the 1990s, there was no annual check-up programme in America, and now most people have access.

“In the UAE just one per cent of health plans will cover an annual check-up, and this is the main reason why men will not see a doctor on a regular basis.

“There is no code for an annual check-up on an otherwise healthy person, so hospitals can’t bill for it.”

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When men hit their 40s, they should be checked for diabetes and high cholesterol as cardiac complications become more common.

In their 50s men enter a high risk stage of life for prostate cancer, bowel cancer and decreasing bone strength.

By the time men reach 60, they should be having regular check-ups with their GP, including regular eye tests.

“Check-ups can be expensive, as you need to rule out so many diseases, and are usually only done on patients with existing medical conditions,” Dr Baladi said.

“We can rule our certain problems very easily with a few simple blood tests.

Daniel Ricciardo will be taking part in his final race for Red Bull Racing at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday. AFP  
Daniel Ricciardo will be taking part in his final race for Red Bull Racing at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday. AFP  

“Between the ages of 50 to 60, people should have an annual blood sugar and Anemia check, and have a blood-lipid profile done to eliminate certain problems.

“Every ten years, a colon screening should completed as unless someone has symptoms, they won’t have it done.

“This is one cancer that has positive survival rates with early detection.”

Globally, life expectancy has increased by five years between 2000 and 2017, the fastest increase since the 1960s.

That has been attributed to better detection rates for serious illness and early screening programmes.

“Women are better at getting themselves checked out, but men are still way behind,” said Dr Baladi.

“Early detection is so important for many illnesses and can often save lives.”