"Non-communicable diseases" is an umbrella term referring to common diseases within the society that are not transferable from one person to another, usually associated with the way a person or a community lives. Among the most common non-communicable disease worldwide generally and in Malaysia specifically is hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases, kidney diseases, lung problems, cancer and obesity.
Professor Madya Fatma Al-Maskari from the Department of Community Medicine in Medicine and Health Sciences Faculty of United Arab Emirates University mentioned through her writing in the UN Chronicles website that lifestyle diseases share common risk factors, namely the exposure to risky daily behaviour such as smoking, imbalanced diet and lack of physical activity, which contributes to the development of the diseases mentioned earlier.
Though not uncommon within society, these diseases increase a person's disability, leading to gradual loss of independence and worse, could lead to death if left untreated. Looking from a broader scale, these commonly overlooked diseases lead to a higher rate of absenteeism and sick days, which in turn would reduce the productivity of an institution specifically and a nation generally. The same conditions also lead to a heavier economic burden as the health facility got overwhelmed by more patients coming in with chronic diseases while the existing patients are continuing the long-term care they need.
However, the risk of these diseases could be minimized by modifying lifestyle and daily habits. A balanced diet, effective stress management and the practice of an active lifestyle, as well as limiting the engagement in risky behaviours are the keys to reducing the incidence of non-communicable diseases. Among the adjustments which need to be highlighted are the reduction of sugar, salt and fatty food intake, as well as the balanced portion of meals and the increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health suggested the public to limit the intake of sugar to 50g daily, equivalent to 4 teaspoons of sugar, inclusive of sugar content in both food and drinks.
Among the effort on the government level to promote healthy dietary habits are the "Pinggan Sihat Malaysia, #sukusukuseparuh" campaign and the update of the 2020 Malaysian Food Pyramid. Useful tips to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables and reduce salt intake at workplaces can be obtained through the NutritionistKKM Youtube Channel
Practising an active lifestyle could also help in reducing the incidence and effects of these chronic diseases. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggested that an adult should engage in a cumulative of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercises weekly or 90 minutes of a combination of both intensities. You can learn how to choose the suitable intensity for your exercises here. The ACSM also suggested that an individual should engage in exercises focused on increasing the strength and endurance of muscles at least twice weekly, involving all major muscle groups.
Among the recommendation mentioned by the Ministry of Health to the employers to encourage the employees to practice an active lifestyle is to provide suitable walking tracks, the "Jom Guna Tangga" campaign, and allocating "X-breaks" where employees engage in light exercises within working hours. Besides that, scheduled physical activity programs, sports competitions, and providing facilities for a "fitness corner" are also among the suggestions given out by the ministry.
In short, the Ministry of Health has suggested various strategies to overcome the rise of non-communicable diseases in Malaysia. The strategies are mainly focused on modifying the habits and lifestyles of Malaysians. A change in the habits and lifestyle of an individual or a community calls for a high commitment and strong willpower to ensure a healthier future Malaysian community.
At Best Care Physiotherapy, we provide online consultation sessions, weight management services, group exercise programs as well as medical exercise programs for people with non-communicable diseases, handled by certified and trained specialists. To find out further about our services, follow this link.
Al-Maskari, F. (n.d.). Lifestyle diseases: An economic burden on the health services. United Nations. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/lifestyle-diseases-economic-burden-health-services.
American College of Sports Medicine. (n.d.). Physical activity guidelines resources. ACSM_CMS. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from https://www.acsm.org/read-research/trending-topics-resource-pages/physical-activity-guidelines.
Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. (2011, September 6). Fakta Mengenai Gula. PORTAL MyHEALTH. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from http://www.myhealth.gov.my/fakta-mengenai-gula/.
Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. (2020). Kospen plus - Hidup Yang Aktif. Portal Rasmi Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from https://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2396?mid=809.
Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. (2020). Piramid Makanan Malaysia 2020 – Mendidik Rakyat Mengambil Makanan Dengan Betul. Portal Rasmi Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from https://www2.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2725.
YouTube. (2017). Tips Amalan Makan Buah dan Sayur. YouTube. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVdgnYmQIAo.
YouTube. (2020). Pengawalan Garam di Tempat Kerja. YouTube. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwlB8CjpRW8.
Wan Nurul Islamiah binti Wan Ahmad
Physiotherapist & Clinical Exercise Physiologist at Best Care Physiotherapy
MSc (CES) (USM), BPhysio (Hons) (IIUM)