Trends come and go, but in health, they last longer than most. So it pays to look back in order to look forward.
the star online date 2-Jan-2011
1. Lifestyle diseases
Going by the number of articles on it, lifestyle diseases received a lot of press in 2010.
Statistics on hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, amongst others, from the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) III in 2006 were repeated several times throughout the year by various officials to emphasise the need for Malaysians to start adopting a healthier lifestyle.
Various campaigns and governmental committees were also set up to combat these chronic conditions.
Among them is the Cabinet committee, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and involving 12 ministries, approved last month, to outline policies to deal with issues related to these diseases.
RM90mil was also allocated for community empowerment programmes to transform local leaders into health advocates.
Unfortunately, these diseases are likely to remain among the top killers of our nation for a long while to come.
The big C is still one of the scariest diagnoses one can hear from a doctor.
It puts a clear and definite full stop to your life, and brings home an awareness of mortality unlike many other diseases.
And because of its lingering nature, you have to deal with, not only your upcoming meeting with your Maker, but also with the rest of your life and the people in it.
Thanks to various world cancer days, including Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and general public awareness, this disease pops up in the press fairly regularly.
In December, Liow reported that Malaysia had been listed sixth among Asian countries with the highest percentage of obese people.
Not surprising, considering that the NHMS III showed that two out of every five adults (43%) were either overweight or obese.
The 10-year survey showed that obesity among Malaysian adults had increased by 250%, while the number of overweight adults went up by 70% from 1996 to 2006.
About 38% of teenagers were also overweight, while a more recent survey of 10,000 primary school pupils showed that 24% were either overweight or obese.
With our delicious and easily-available food, and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, this trend of growing waistlines is only set to increase.
4. Hypertension & diabetes
Of the lifestyle diseases, these are probably the two most common among Malaysians.
The NHMS III showed that cases of hypertension, or high blood pressure, among those aged above 30 had increased from 29.9% in 1996 to 43% in 2006, while diabetes patients had gone from 8.3% to 14.9%.
The Food Intake Among Malaysian Adults Research 2002/2003 study also showed that Malaysians take 25% more salt than what is recommended by the WHO.
The intake of salt is linked to high blood pressure.
Meanwhile, a survey by the Consumers Association of Penang found that Malaysians consume an average of 26 teaspoons or sugar a day, or about 130g. WHO recommends that we should not exceed 50g daily.
While not a disease, the smoking of cigarettes is linked to certain non-communicable diseases, like heart disease and lung cancer.
This item popped up in the news in 2010 because the Government increased the tax on it by three sen per stick, effective last Oct.
Based on statistics, one in 10 Malaysians are cigarette smokers. And while there are free clinics to help quit smoking, this habit is proving hard to break.
Putting a halt to non-communicable diseases:
·Have a balanced diet. Decrease the salt, sugar and fats, and increase the vegetables and fruit. Drink enough water and watch out for the “hidden” calories in your food.
·Exercise. Take the stairs, walk around your neighbourhood, do the housework or wash your car — exercise doesn’t have to mean joining the gym.
·Find ways to relax, have fun and release your stress. This can be through physical activity, taking up a hobby or just getting together and talking with friends.
·Taking nutritional supplement.
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·Put a halt to unhealthy activities like smoking, drinking excessively, eating five times a day and running up your credit card bills, among others.
·Go for an annual medical and dental checkup.