M’sians face higher risk of NCDs, say experts

Fun but risky move: Unhealthy diets and poor lifestyle choices have put Malaysians at higher risk of NCDs. — Filepic

PETALING JAYA: Unhealthy diets, lifestyle choices and low health literacy have put Malaysians at higher risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), say experts.

“This makes us quite prone to NCDs and increases the risk of kidney, liver and heart diseases.

“Cancer is also on the rise and is expected to cause significant loss to quality of life, other than loss of life,” said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia health economics and public health specialist Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh.

She said even younger people are contracting NCDs compared with two decades ago when these diseases were more common among older folk.

“Unless there is a change in lifestyle, diet and approach to health, these conditions will continue on an upward trend,” she said in commenting on the findings of the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2023 released recently.

Citing other findings from the Statistics Department, Prof Sharifa Ezat said there was also a rise in deaths due to ischaemic heart disease, from 11.6% in 2016 to 17% in 2020.

“With insufficient resources and budgets, healthcare is moving more towards privatisation and precision medicine.

“It will cost more now to access healthcare and many people will not be able to afford it,” she said.

Commenting on rising cases of depression, University of Cyberjaya Assoc Prof Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan said the statistics are not surprising.

She said a lack of a clean environment, excessive time spent on gadgets and the emphasis on exam scores over creative and physical activities, as well as family dynamics, could have contributed to depression.

“The world economy, wars and increase of violence in the world – all of these lead to depression and people having a very poor outlook for the future,” said the dean of the university’s Psychology and Social Sciences Faculty.

Dr Anasuya added that the focus should be on prevention, rebuilding families and learning how to manage mental health rather than treating it as a taboo subject, with greater emphasis on fun and practical life skills.

Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said the lack of access and high cost of healthcare means people would be less likely to seek early detection and treatment.

“The government needs to provide access, especially to early screening. Don’t make people line up for three hours” said Dr Kuljit, adding that Malaysians who can afford health screenings should get themselves checked regularly.

“Invest a small amount of money (on health screenings) and you will at least safeguard yourself from a huge catastrophe.”

Dr Kuljit said healthcare is expensive as the government spends billions annually on the upkeep of public hospitals.

He added that the culture of overindulgence and lack of exercise has led to unhealthy trends, and it is crucial to educate people about the importance of health.

“People who prepare food should also be educated to ensure there isn’t too much oil or sugar in food, among others,” said Dr Kuljit.

Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia president Dr Shanmuganathan Ganeson said the NHMS findings are reflective of the community, which is currently in survival mode when it comes to finances.

“Therefore, they have less priority for their own health despite knowing the fallout of non-intervention,” he said.

He added that surgery and procedural treatments such as coronary stenting, angioplasty, cardiac bypass, oncological operations and treatment are costly.

“Many seniors above 56 who do not have insurance often shy away and are resigned to their fates, rather than burden their families,” he said.

Dr Shanmuganathan also said the rise in private outpatient services is due to the rapid increase in private GP (general practitioner) clinics, while the decline in people seeking government outpatient services is due to factors such as long waiting times and parking issues.

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Health , NCD , Sugar , Diet , Healthy Lifestyle


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