It’s no secret that Malaysia has the highest rate of diabetes in Asia and one of the highest in the world. According to a recent report by The Star Online, about 2.5 million adults aged 18 and above in Malaysia have diabetes. Alarmingly, almost half of Malaysians do not know that they have diabetes until it’s too late.
There are three major types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is probably the more dangerous one out of the three, as it has been dubbed as the ‘silent killer’. It does not have any symptoms at all until you develop a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, go blind or forced to have amputations.
Such news is not quite shocking, considering the Malaysian lifestyle of drinking sweet beverages from breakfast to dinner (especially teh tarik, a Malaysian favourite), eating late at the mamak or other 24-hour eateries, and consuming high-cholesterol foods like char kuey teow kerang.
Our environment also prevents us from walking a lot, whether to work or anywhere else. With most Malaysians having an office job, it’s hard not to be sedentary. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for us to not change our lifestyle. It’s challenging, but it’s possible.
The typical Malaysian lifestyle could also lead us to other major health risks in the long run if we don’t start living a healthier lifestyle. No matter how old you are, start taking necessary actions now to reduce your risk of diabetes and other major health risks like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease in the future.
Check out these 8 top tips to reduce your risk of diabetes and other major health problems:
1. Get regular medical check-ups
Since Type 2 diabetes shows no symptoms until it’s too late, it’s important for you to get regular medical check-ups, preferably twice a year. Be in tune with your body and watch out for anything unusual, and report to your doctor if you notice anything odd.
Medical check-ups often include measuring your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. This will allow you to take the right actions immediately in case there’s a problem, saving you from bigger health issues later.
2. Drink more water and cut down on sugary beverages
Many studies have linked sugary beverages with diabetes and obesity. Increasing your intake of water is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to prevent major diseases. By drinking more water and cutting down on sugary beverages, you’ll be able to save more money too. Follow the ‘8 glasses a day’ recommendation, or use water drinking reminder apps if forgetfulness is an issue.
3. Incorporate low-calorie, plant-based foods into your diet
Studies on dietary pattern have shown that consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables can reduce diabetes risk, so make sure to incorporate more of them into your diet (organic produce is highly recommended).
Also, choose high-fibre, lower-fat foods and 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Avoid foods that are high in sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat. If you’re a huge fan of Malaysian flavours, consume the healthier versions of them.
4. Be physically active
Your main goals are to maintain a healthy weight and lose excess body fat, as being overweight is a big risk factor for diabetes. Every kilogram of weight lost reduces diabetes risk by 16 per cent!
A sedentary lifestyle also raises the risk of diabetes and other major health risks, so get moving! By exercising, your insulin sensitivity will increase, which helps in keeping your blood sugar level from getting too high or too low.
If you’re unmotivated, start simple. A 10-30-minute brisk walk a day does the trick. If that sounds boring, find a fun activity that makes you all pumped up like dancing. Other easy things you can do to start moving more include stretching and going up and down the stairs.
You can then gradually move on to more complex routines. If you can’t afford to go to the gym, use free workout apps at home and turn a space at your house into a home gym. You can also install sedentary desktop reminders or apps to help you achieve your goals, and get these health equipment to improve your home workouts.
5. Manage your stress
Being too stressed can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol and eventually lead to stroke and heart attack. It can also trigger several hormones that increase blood sugar and mental health problems like depression.
Some of the things you can do to manage your stress include doing mindful meditation, talking to a professional or loved ones, and exercising. Exercising releases endorphins, which makes you feel positive. Try stress management apps for a quick stress relief.
6. Limit your alcohol intake
You’re at risk for many kinds of cancer if you drink too much alcohol while drinking moderately allows you to enjoy some health benefits like reduced risks of diabetes, ischemic stroke, and heart disease. The key is to consume one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men. Avoid exceeding your daily recommended intake.
7. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
Smoking is the major cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer. It is also a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. With the upcoming SST, where prices of cigarettes will become more expensive than ever, it’s probably the right time for you to quit smoking entirely. Save your money and your health! Avoid places where smoking occurs, and let people know of your plan to quit smoking.
For heavy smokers, you may find it harder to quit smoking, so get some professional help if you’re serious about quitting. Visit the Quit Smoking Clinic at the National Heart Institute or the National Cancer Society Malaysia, or join the JomQuit programme by the Ministry of Health. You can also try nicotine patches or oral gums available at many pharmacies.
8. Sleep well
Poor quality sleep and sleep deprivation can increase the risk for obesity and diabetes. Some of the things you can do now to start sleeping well include:
- Turning off computers, mobile phones, TVs, and other blue-light sources an hour before bedtime
- Keeping your daytime snooze to 20 minutes or less
- Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon
- Doing regular exercise
- Eating light dinner
- Drinking warm milk or chamomile tea before bedtime
- Dimming the lights two to three hours before bedtime
- Cancelling all noises using a white noise app or ear plugs
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