KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — About 8.1 per cent of the adult population in Malaysia, or 1.7 million people, have all three risk factors for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, the main non-communicable diseases.
According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the prevalence rate of diabetes in adults has increased in Malaysia from 13.4 per cent in 2015 to 18.3 per cent in 2019, with diabetes defined as having sugar levels 7.0 mmol/L or above.
An MOH official who presented the findings said NHMS 2019 had used a different blood sugar level to define diabetes compared to the NHMS 2015, which found 17.5 per cent diabetes prevalence in adults, to follow international standards.
An estimated 3.9 million adults in Malaysia aged 18 and above had diabetes as of last year, higher than 3.5 million in 2015. The NHMS 2019 survey found that 49 per cent of people with diabetes had never been examined or diagnosed with the chronic disease.
Malaysians have also been gaining more weight, with half of adults suffering from abdominal obesity at 52.6 per cent last year, higher than 48.6 per cent in 2015. Obesity prevalence in adults also rose from 17.7 per cent (or 3.3 million people) in 2015 to 19.7 per cent in 2019. Overweight increased slightly, from 30 per cent in 2015 to 30.4 per cent last year. This means half of Malaysian adults (50.1 per cent) were overweight or obese as of 2019.
More adults suffered from hypertension as of last year at 6.4 million people in Malaysia, or three out of 10 people (30 per cent), with only half aware that they have high blood pressure. In 2015, the NHMS recorded 6.1 million adults with hypertension at a similar prevalence rate of 30.3 per cent.
According to NHMS 2019, four out of 10 people in Malaysia, or eight million adults, have high cholesterol (38.1 per cent prevalence). One out of four are not aware of their condition. This was a reduction from 2015 statistics that saw 47.7 per cent of the adult population, or 9.6 million people, with high cholesterol.
One out of four adults in Malaysia are not active physically, said the survey. A whopping 95 per cent of Malaysian adults don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables, but three out of four drink enough water.
Prevalence of childhood stunting in children aged below five years in Malaysia has increased from 17.7 per cent in 2015 to 21.8 per cent in 2019. Stunting means low height for age.
“Stunting is caused by lack of nutritions needed by mothers and growing children,” Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said when presenting the survey.
One out of five Malaysians (21.3 per cent) were estimated to have anaemia, according to NHMS 2019, or 4.6 million people. Three out of 10 women of reproductive age from 15 to 49 years have anaemia.
Anaemia among the general population was highest in Kelantan at 27.2 per cent, while anaemia among women aged 15 to 49 was highest in Penang at 14.4 per cent.
The MOH survey noted that 16 per cent of women in Malaysia had light anaemia, 13 per cent moderate anaemia, and 1 per cent severe anaemia.