PETALING JAYA: The number of diabetic patients has been increasing over the last several years, says Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
The Health director-general said over the last three National Health and Morbidity Surveys, the percentage of Malaysian adults with diabetes had rocketed from 11.2% in 2011, to 13.4% in 2015, and 18.3% in 2019.
"Diabetes is one of the major non-communicable diseases affecting Malaysians.
"It is a serious problem with nearly one in five – or about 3.9 million – adults estimated to be living with diabetes in the country.
"Even more worrying is that about half of them are unaware that they have this disease.
"Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels can increase the risk of multiple complications involving the heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves and other organs in the body.
"When you couple diabetes with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels – another two common medical conditions among Malaysians – you’re getting a perfect recipe for heart disease, which has been the number one killer in our country for the past several years.
"Indeed, it is estimated that 8.1%, or 1.7 million Malaysian adults are living with the triple combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, while a further 3.4 million have two out of the three conditions," he said during his keynote speech during the World Diabetes Day 2021 virtual media forum on Thursday (Nov 11).
Dr Noor Hisham added that people with diabetes require ongoing care and support to manage their condition and avoid complications.
"In Malaysia, through our universal health coverage and extensive healthcare service provision, treatments for chronic diseases such as diabetes are provided for at all levels of care.
"We have also established various policies and programs that aim at disease prevention.
"Access to care relates not only to access to treatment and healthcare services, but also access to a healthy and enabling environment with healthy food options and safe places for physical activities.
"To this end, with the 12th Malaysia Plan we are aiming to intensify efforts on combating non-communicable diseases like diabetes through awareness programmes and screening efforts.
"Our sugar tax, which was first implemented on sugar-sweetened beverages in 2019, has also been extended to pre-mixed sugary beverages like chocolate or cocoa-based drinks, malt, coffee and tea, as announced in the 2022 Budget.
"Hopefully, this initiative will be able to support our efforts to help Malaysians further cut down on our consumption of sugary beverages," he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said the Covid-19 pandemic had hopefully brought home to the public how important health is, and how staying healthy and preventing disease is really, at the end of the day, in our own hands.
"Some of us have taken advantage of the movement restrictions to develop healthier lifestyles – cooking healthy meals at home, incorporating exercise into our daily routine; and spending more quality time with our families.
"I hope that these practices will continue even as we ease our way back into a more normal mode of living," he said.
A panel which comprised of Health Ministry non communicable diseases deputy director Dr Feisul Idzwan Mustapha, Consultant physician and endocrinologist Datuk Dr Zanariah Hussein and Consultant psychologist Dr Hariyati Shahrima Abdul Majid was also held to discuss the future outlook of diabetes care among healthcare professionals.