Don’t neglect your health

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KUALA LUMPUR: Growing up in Taman Siakap, Seberang Jaya, Penang, I had a neighbour – a couple – who enjoyed consuming gassy, carbonated drinks.

Their fridge was usually packed with multi-coloured beverages – red, green, yellow and even black, they had it all.

I remember being invited to their house once and was told to help myself to any of the soft drinks stocked up in their fridge.

When I opened it, my eyes practically popped out.

Just 10 years old then, I thought to myself how wonderful my life would be if I could enjoy fizzy drinks every single day! But soon enough I came to know of the perils of consuming too much of those sugar-laden aerated beverages.

My neighbour’s wife was eventually diagnosed with diabetes but, sadly, the couple continued drinking the stuff.

The wife developed complications and later passed away.

The eating habits and lifestyles of many people these days are a cause for concern, indeed, as they tend to give priority to satisfying their taste buds rather than taking care of their health.

Sure, most people are aware that consuming excessive amounts of sugar can lead to diabetes but they still choose to pay no heed to what they put into their mouths.

It has been reported that Malaysians consumed an average of 26 teaspoons of sugar per person a day, almost five times more than the ideal amount set by the World Health Organisation.

In fact, Malaysia was also ranked the world’s eighth highest consumer of sugar.

Not surprisingly, the number of diabetic patients in Malaysia is rising at a worrying rate.

According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2015, diabetes was among the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that were on the rise in Malaysia, with 3.5 million people aged 18 and above, or 17.5 percent of the population, affected by the disease.

The survey also showed the prevalence of diabetes among young people.

This chronic disease used to be synonymous with senior citizens but it is no longer the case now.

No one can afford to take diabetes lightly as it can affect their productivity and future.

If left untreated and uncontrolled, it can invite other risks and complications, such as kidney failure, blindness and heart disease. It was reported in March last year that an estimated 400,000 Malaysians were suffering from renal failure, ranging from stage one to four.

According to NHMS 2016’s findings, about 15,000 to 39,000 Malaysians have lost their sight due to uncontrolled diabetes.

In an article written by Malaysian Doctors Club president Dr Muhammad Hakim Noordin, he said it was important for society to understand the complications of diabetes as they usually did not appear in the short term but 15 to 30 years later.

However, complications can arise within 10 to 15 years if the disease is left untreated.

By right, the results of the government surveys should have opened the eyes of the people.

Unfortunately, unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits still persist.

When you keep on consuming food and drinks laden with sugar and are generally inactive and too lazy to exercise, you are not only at risk of becoming obese but also exposed to diabetes and other NCDs like hypertension.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad was quoted as saying recently that NHMS 2015 data revealed that one out of three adults were not active.

In today’s digital world, our people are more interested in fiddling with their smartphones than engaging in physical activities.

The question now is, when will our society mend its ways and adopt a healthy lifestyle? It has been reported that 73 percent of hospital deaths were caused by NCDs.

The government is taking this matter seriously and, stressing on the preventive aspect, it is constantly educating the people and implementing various initiatives to address NCDs.

However, its efforts will be in vain if people don’t show an interest in improving their health.

A person’s quality of health is greatly dependent on his/her eating habits and self-care.

According to statistics from government health clinics in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, there were some 33,000 diabetics in these areas.

For treatment, most sick people head to government hospitals, which are getting more and more crowded these days as private healthcare is expensive.

The government’s healthcare spending is set to increase and although the Health Ministry has been allocated RM29 billion in Budget 2019 (the highest in the history of the ministry’s annual budget allocation), it may not be sufficient to meet its needs if people don’t take preventive measures to safeguard their health.

During the presentation of Budget 2019 in Parliament on Nov 2, it was announced that Malaysia will impose an excise tax of 40 sen per litre on sweetened beverages starting April 1, 2019. This sugar tax, hopefully, will discourage Malaysians from consuming such drinks.

Although some people have questioned the necessity of introducing such a tax, this measure can to some extent help to contain the rising statistics pertaining to diabetes. — Bernama