Diabetes: Know Your Risk, Know Your Response — Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming

Type 2 diabetes and its complications can be delayed or prevented by adopting and maintaining healthy habits.

In conjunction with World Diabetes Day on November 14, 2023, let us be aware of the risks for type 2 diabetes and take action to prevent or delay this disease. 

According to the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey, the overall prevalence of type 2 diabetes among Malaysian adults is 18.3 per cent, an increase from 11.2 per cent in 2011 and 13.4 per cent in 2015 (Institute for Public Health, 2020). 

In addition, about half are undiagnosed. Malaysia has the highest rate of type 2 diabetes in the Western Pacific region, and is ranked twelve globally (Ganasegeran et al., 2020).  

Knowing our risks and what to do is important to support prevention, and for early diagnosis and timely treatment. You may assess yourself at Test2prevent, an online diabetes risk assessment that predicts an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes within the next ten years based on the Finnish Diabetes Risk Score (FINDRISC). You can also use a locally modified calculator.

Factors predisposing to type 2 diabetes includes age and genetic predisposition, which we can’t do much about. However, things such as being overweight or obese, having abdominal obesity, leading a sedentary lifestyle, having an unhealthy diet, and smoking are modifiable.  

In order to maintain a healthy weight, we should aim to be more physically active. Try walking up the stairs instead of using the lift or escalators or walking instead of driving if the distance is near.

We should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as cycling, swimming, jogging, and brisk walking), spread out over several days. 

We should reduce calorie intake if you are overweight, control portion sizes to avoid overeating, increase the intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, avoid high-fat and high-calorie food; avoid tobacco use, excessive alcohol and added sugar, choose healthier cooking methods (such as baking, grilling, steaming, stir-frying, or cooking with curry without coconut milk) instead of frying, and consume an adequate number of calories according to our requirements (as per sex, age, and physical activity levels).

Regular health check-ups are also recommended, as early detection of the risk factors can help to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes when actions are taken.

Type 2 diabetes and its complications can be delayed or prevented by adopting and maintaining healthy habits. When not detected and treated early, diabetes can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications. 

Let’s know our risks of diabetes and start taking healthy lifestyle habits to prevent or delay this disease.

Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming is from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Unviersity of Malaya.

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