PETALING JAYA: Despite a rise in the incidence of type 2 diabetes, many Malaysians remain apathetic when it comes to taking care of their health, said the executive chairman of the National Diabetes Institute.
Despite getting the disease at a younger age, there is still a lot to be desired in terms of diabetes control, Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Mustaffa Embong (pic) said.
“We lack commitment and are just not bothered, despite years of campaigns and efforts to increase awareness of the disease.”
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya recently said that 3.5 million, or 17.5% of Malaysians aged 18 and above have diabetes.
In addition, statistics show that six out of 10 Malaysians are either overweight or obese, making the situation even more worrying.
“Not only do we hold the record as the fattest nation in South-East Asia, we now have the highest number of diabetics in the region, and yet the majority seem unperturbed and choose to lead a life of apathy,” said Prof Dr Mustaffa.
He said the response for free diabetes testing was poor, and the ones who do respond often don’t follow through with treatment.
Diabetes is closely associated with increased blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol level, high blood sugar level and excess body fat around the waist.
This cluster of conditions increases one’s risk of developing a non-communicable disease (NCD) including diabetes, which is caused by the body’s inability to regulate blood glucose.
Untreated or poorly-managed diabetes can also be associated with serious, often fatal complications.
“My colleagues and I are disillusioned because we don’t think we can change Malaysian adults.
“Every day, we see overweight people walking happily with a carbonated drink in hand,” he said.
Prof Dr Mustaffa warned that children were equally vulnerable to the risk of NCDs from foetal development through to childhood, a result of exposure to unhealthy diets and lack of exercise.
“Since we ‘cannot’ target adults, we have to target children. This can be more effective,” he said.
“We need to encourage them to eat healthily and exercise, so they can also influence their parents.”
Diabetics can lead long healthy lives as productive members of society, but they have to modify their lifestyles.
“We need to drum into our people that they need to be responsible for their own health,” emphasises Prof Dr Mustaffa.
In conjunction with World Diabetes Day 2016 on Nov 14, The Star will be commemorating the event with a series of articles spread over different media platforms in the month of November.
This is part of the newspaper’s effort to heighten awareness of the disease, as well as to reduce the burden of diabetes on the nation and individual Malaysians.